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New operators chosen for Challenge Penticton

Kevin Cutjar, seen here a training session at the community centre, and his business partner Michael Brown have been recommended by the City of Penticton that they negotiate a licence to operate Challenge Penticton race for 2015. - File Photo
Kevin Cutjar, seen here a training session at the community centre, and his business partner Michael Brown have been recommended by the City of Penticton that they negotiate a licence to operate Challenge Penticton race for 2015.
— image credit: File Photo

Updated 3:50 p.m. May 23, 2014

Penticton has followed through on its search to find new operators for the Challenge Penticton race, which the city negotiated a licence for in 2012 after ending a 30-year relationship with Ironman Canada.

The 2014 race will still be operated by the Penticton Triathlon Race Society at the behest of the city, but for 2015, the city has recommended the Challenge Family negotiate a licence with the team of Kevin Cutjar and Michael Brown.

Cutjar made contact with the Challenge Family almost immediately after the announcement Friday.

“I just received a message from one of their representatives and they are looking forward to starting those negotiations,” said Cutjar. “We’re also looking forward to getting through that process and moving on.”

Cutjar, a professional triathlete with several top 10 finishes in Ironman Canada, said he and Brown have the skills needed to make the race a success.

“We haven’t taken on this big a project together, but Mike is the owner and race director for a triathlon up in Stoney Plain, Alta. It has 800 to 1,000 competitors in that and he has a strong business background and is involved on that race on all levels of operation and management,” said Cutjar, who also brings his experience as owner and race director of the B.C. Duathlon Championships to the table.

Kevin Cutjar and Michael Brown.

“We think one of our bigger strengths is our reach into the broader triathlon community, not only in our local region,” said Cutjar. “We’ve built relationships with influential people, clubs and coaches and these are the connections we have that will aim to develop and encourage people back into Penticton to train and do the race.”

Cutjar and Brown were one of three groups that filed expressions of interest with the city to take over the race. Bruce Schoenne, a local businessman, and Steve Brown, owner of Peach City Runners, were the first group to put their bid in, though they recently pulled out of the competition.

Schoenne said he and Steve Brown were concerned over the time it was taking the city to come to a decision, asking for a response by May 15, in order to have the maximum time to put their plans into effects.

The city did ask for an extension to May 21, the day they conducted personal interviews with the bidding groups. But, according to Schoenne, they still didn’t hear from the city, so came to the decision to withdraw.

“There are no sour grapes. Steve and I looked at this as a business decision,” said Schoenne, adding that they still believe the race has a chance to succeed.

“This process for Steve and I has been almost six months, far longer than it was for the other bidders. We were right off the mark, this has been a long process,” said Schoenne. “We had a plan to put in place, and a very aggressive plan to bring people back into this community.”

Schoenne said they wish Cutjar and Brown all the best for a successful race in 2015.

Cutjar admits it’s a big task they have taken on to bring the Penticton race back to the levels it was at during the Ironman decades.

“Ironman is a massive player in the triathlon world. That is always going to be a challenge to go up against them, but I think if we can become the best other option and really look after the athletes and make sure the experience … the Challenge event is is better than anything else they experience, that is going to be the focus for us,” said Cutjar. “We’ve got enough experience as athletes and in the triathlon industry to know that it is those sort of things that encourage people to go back to a race.

“It is the experience they have there and the relationships they build with the people that organize the race and how they are treated by the race.”

Along with an increased focus on triathlete communication, Cutjar and Brown’s proposal includes a week-long festival, maintenance of the iconic single-loop race course and commitment to a guaranteed five-year debt repayment plan.

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The City of Penticton has recommended the Challenge Family negotiate a licence to operate the Challenge Penticton Canada race for 2015 with Kevin Cutjar and Michael Brown.

The partners outlined their vision for the race through the Expressions of Interest and Statements of Qualifications process. This competitive bid process yielded three submissions, and a thorough evaluation process concluded with in-depth interviews this week, said a city spokesperson.

"Kevin Cutjar is well-known in Penticton by athletes and the community for his passion and dedication to the sport of triathlon, and his partner, Michael Brown, has experience with race operations and management. Council selected this partnership because of the vision they presented to make Challenge Penticton Canada the iconic race we believe it can be," said Mayor Garry Litke. "We sincerely thank all those who responded to the EOI process. Seeing the interest confirms the Penticton triathlon race legacy will continue."

Kevin Cutjar is a former professional triathlete known for capturing titles such as Ultraman World Championships (1995) and top 10 finishes in Ironman Canada, as well as his coaching experience. He developed strong networks in the triathlon community assisting with Ironman for 20 years and as a former owner and race director of the B.C. Duathlon Championships.

Michael Brown is also a triathlete and owner/operator of the Great White North triathlon in Stony Plain, Alta., which attracts over 1,000 athletes.

The Cutjar-Brown proposal featured an increased focus on triathlete communication, week-long festival, maintenance of the iconic single-loop race course and commitment to a guaranteed five-year debt repayment plan.

The non-profit Penticton Triathlon Race Society will continue operations of the race until the conclusion of the 2014 race. The Challenge Family must negotiate an agreement with the successful proponent to organize and operate the 2015 Challenge Penticton Canada.

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