Ironman is set to return to Penticton under the terms of a tentative agreement that will be presented Tuesday to city council for approval.
City staff have negotiated a five-year deal that would see the iconic, full-distance triathlon revived in August 2020 after an eight-year absence.
The net cost to the city would be $410,000 through a mix of cash and in-kind donations, while the business community has committed $200,000 worth of support so far.
The financial benefits would far exceed the costs: An economic study conducted in 2004 estimated the local annual economic impact of Ironman at $12.5 million.
The new deal has been in the works for several months, at the same time the city was soliciting public feedback on triathlons in Penticton and accepting expressions of interest from other potential race operators.
“Previously bound by a non-disclosure agreement, city staff were tight-lipped about their meetings with Ironman and were unable to provide any updates to residents or the media until now,” recreation manager Bregje Kozak writes in her report to council.
“Staff proceeded with their due diligence, including two face-to-face meetings with an Ironman representative, and explored the total cash and in-kind commitments that would be required to bring Ironman back to Penticton.”
Kozak’s report concludes: “Penticton is a triathlon city; continuing to host an annual marquee event here will capitalize on the success of our previous signature events including Ironman, Challenge races, ITU Multisport World Championships and Super League.”
Super League is set to return this summer in what is the final year of the city’s contract with MB Sports.
Last year’s event attracted 375 amateur athletes, but the final day of races was cancelled due to health concerns from wildfire smoke.
During the Ironman years, 1983 to 2012, there was never a cancellation, although the course was modified in 2003 due to the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire.
City council of the day parted ways with Ironman in 2012 due ostensibly to its owners asking for too much financial and in-kind support: a licensing fee of $75,000 on top of $110,000 worth of in-kind support. Ironman then moved to Whistler, where it last year attracted approximately 1,600 amateur triathletes.
Returning the event to Penticton would cost much more than it used to.
The tentative agreement comes with a gross cost to the city of $663,000. It includes a $299,000 cash donation — $150,000 of which is the licensing fee — plus another $110,000 worth of in-kind services, such as space rentals, permits and policing.
City staff have also come up with $53,000 worth of savings on top of the $200,000 from the business community, reducing the net cost to taxpayers to $410,000.
The seven outside groups already on board are: Travel Penticton; Penticton Lakeside Resort; Robin, Jessica and Lee Agur; Valley First Credit Union; Greyback Construction; Wildstone Construction and Engineering; and Gateway Casino and Great Estates Okanagan.
Council is to discuss the tentative Ironman contract at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. at Penticton Secondary School. The vote is anticipated later in the evening at the regular council meeting, beginning at 6 p.m. at City Hall.