Penticton’s mayor is urging Vernon to do exhaustive research before pursuing a major sports event.
Some Vernon officials are hesitant to bid for hosting rights to Ironman Canada given that Penticton severed its relationship with the event after 30 years.
“I would say that they should do their due diligence,” said Penticton mayor Dan Ashton. “Ironman is not the only label in town for long-distance athletes.”
Based on Penticton’s experience, Ashton would not speculate if a bid from Vernon would be a mistake.
“That’s not for me to answer,” he said.
In July, transfer of Ironman Canada shifted from the individual who held the rights to Ironman Canada, Graham Fraser, to the event’s parent company, World Triathlon Corporation. Penticton, which had a contract with Fraser, then sought proposals for a triathlon and presentations were made by the Challenge Family, while the WTC waited until shortly before the 2012 race to make their bid to maintain a relationship with Penticton. A decision was ultimately made to work with Challenge and Ashton said it was largely based on some ongoing concerns about Ironman.
“The athletes didn’t feel the experience they were getting was up to par,” he said.
Another issue was the costs Penticton accrued hosting the event. Ashton said the city budgeted $105,000 last year, plus a $45,000 marketing fee, but that rose to $120,000 and a $60,000 marketing fee this year. Those costs are in addition to the work of the approximate 4,000 volunteers who work at the event.
“There’s also been a great decline in the time the athletes stay in town, which is our economic benefit,” Ashton said. “The economic benefits have been decreasing as our costs go up.”
Ashton insists his council consulted with the business sector before deciding to shift away from Ironman.
“We heard from the community that they weren’t deriving benefits except for accommodations and restaurants. They (athletes) aren’t spending and that may be because of the economy.”
Ashton said Challenge will support the athletes and provide more direct benefits to the city, including sponsorship and marketing revenue.
“It’s more community oriented and it’s not just a business coming to town. The benefits stay in town.”
WTC has stated that the next Ironman Canada will be held at the same time as Penticton’s Challenge, which Ashton said will splinter athletes and volunteers. But he insists his community will prevail.
“Penticton has made an incredible choice for the athletes. Challenge is incredibly well respected in Europe, Australia and New Zealand,” he said.
Vernon council is expected to make a decision on Ironman Sept. 21 and a bid package must be submitted to WTC Sept. 24.