A sponsorship deal for the Valley First Challenge Penticton triathlon didn’t entice the mayors of the smaller communities in the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen.
A three-year, $48,000 partnership was presented by co-owners of the triathlon Kevin Cutjar and Michael Brown to the RDOS on July 16.
The deal would offer the naming sponsorship for a volunteer team, the opportunity to name a bike course or special needs stations, promotion of the RDOS online and with event advertising as well as promoting the area and tourism to triathletes who attend the event. However, mayors of smaller population centres didn’t think they would see the benefit.
“I don’t think it should be the responsibility of the Regional District to help provide funding for it,” said Mayor of Oliver Ron Hovanes. The Mayor of Osoyoos, Sue McKortoff, and Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage echoed Hovanes concerns.
Events like the Oliver Half Iron already draw athletes to smaller centres according to Hovanes.
“We don’t assist them with funds,” Hovanes said. “Our local area is a great training ground for athletes. They are coming here on their own regardless.”
Hovanes added the triathlon is a private enterprise, and that “in a sense (the RDOS) would be assisting a business.”
Hovanes also noted that the City of Penticton still has ties to the race — four directors on the regional board representing Penticton — and that doesn’t sit well with him. There was also a promise to use the success of this Challenge race and future events to pay back the debt owed to the City of Penticton from previous years when the City held the license.
“I question whether they should be voting on these matters when it directly impacts the City of Penticton,” Hovanes said.
Mayor of Penticton Andrew Jakubeit says that the four representatives for Penticton have just as much say.
“At the Regional District we wear our Regional District hats. We pay 43 per cent of any of the expenditures there, so we certainly should have a voice at what we do and don’t do. When it comes to the debate table we will decide how to deal with it,” Jakubeit said. “Do we deal with it as a board? Or deal with it just as surrounding areas? It’s sort of premature to sort of guess how it should go down.”
He added that the new owners were introducing themselves and the race that goes through multiple RDOS municipalities to the board, and the scope of the sponsorship would still be discussed.
The fringe benefits of an event like the triathlon and the ITU World Championship Festival headed to Penticton in 2017 were also presented to the board.
“They come here to train and they might train for four hours or whatever during the day, and the rest of the day they are here shopping, going to restaurants, doing wine tours, doing whatever it is they do. So they are an important part of the economy,” Jakubeit said. “I think they sort of want to plant the seed on that. It was sort of mixed reviews from myriad of the directors, but we didn’t formally talk about it and I would suspect at a subsequent meeting we will talk about it a bit more in depth.”
Hovanes feels those benefits won’t necessarily reach smaller communities.
“A lot of people who are coming to running and cycling events in Oliver are staying in Penticton, they are staying in Osoyoos,” Hovanes said. “I would bet there’s more of a monetary bleed off to larger centres coming from small communities than going the other way.”
The new owners of the Challenge were given five years to spread the payment of the debt to the City of Penticton out.
The Challenge triathlon received a $25,000 grant in aid from the RDOS three years ago when the City of Penticton held the license.
The board is set to vote on the sponsorship request at the next meeting on Aug 6.