Not only are we fortunate to be surrounded by beauty but we are peopled with those who enjoy it.
Any day, any weather, many of us are out there, walking our pets, jogging, biking, hiking — taking it in. We walk by gyms with foggy windows, past a myriad of food options including organic co-ops and farmers markets. Active lifestyles and good food choices are prevalent here; our kids do beet tastings at school and bring home recipes for vegetarian dry bean chili. Talented and community-minded people and organizations are promoting health on many levels in many ways.
One of those efforts is to showcase our appeal to the affluent (average household income $247,000) well-educated (92 percent university educated) Ironman crowd.
We are proud that our inaugural Ironman 70.3 hosted here broke a sell-out record. We’re not surprised — we know how much people want to experience what we have every day.
But as much as completing an Ironman is a personal, physical challenge for its expected 2,400 athletes — they’ll swim 1.2 miles in West Grand Traverse Bay, bike 56 miles through the Leelanau, and run a half-marathon that ends outside the State Theatre — the event also challenges the host community.
Several longtime town, village and city hosts hold the Ironman event to clear community accounting of its cost versus benefit, and make decisions accordingly. This is a precedent Traverse City should follow as we put one foot in front of the other.
In recent years, several North American communities have pared back Ironman races from full to half (like ours) amid faltering registrations. (We don’t have that problem). The Coeur d’Alene Press reported that other communities had trouble meeting the contract requirements for volunteers, disliked a lack of representation in Ironman marketing or balked at temporarily closing businesses without directly realizing any revenue.
The article pointed out that Ironman’s (World Triathlon Corp.) ownership change to Chinese multinational corporation Dalian Wanda Group Co. in 2015 represents a gradual shift from North America-based Ironman races (the event started almost 20 years ago in Hawaii) to a more international tilt. One small town, Binz on Germany’s Rugen Island, ended up opting out of continuing Ironman as costs to the municipality were becoming too high.
Each host venue enters into a contract with WTC. Traverse City Tourism is a private nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose the terms of the confidential contract, but other public bodies have shown non-confidential contracts with fees paid to WTC (usually $100,000 per year) as well as more specifics about the host support services.
The city council signed both a contract with Ironman, and also with TCT, which will pay the city any costs or damages associated with the event.
That said, Ironman seems like a terrific deal that could be the protein bar in our long race to health. Traverse City Tourism predicts the race could bring with it $10-15 million of regional impact, and planned the Aug. 25 race on a Sunday to contribute to an end-of-high-season economic boost. The athletes could fall in love with our area and invest in it long-term as we have.
Let’s start off the block with clear questioning, community planning, experimentation and evaluation.
We’re already on the right track.
People from the communities that are playing host are asking good questions, and will continue to do so at the Empire Township Hall tonight at 6 p.m. when the bike route is unveiled.
Traverse City has a two-year agreement with the WTC.
Next year’s race will be on Aug. 30, 2020. We will be among the 10,000 or so spectators cheering this effort on — because being a healthy community is great.
Vigorous questioning is a part of that.