End of Ironman puts Penticton on new course

While Ironman delivered economic benefits to Penticton, the increasing corporate feel of the event had stripped away some of the local charm

One of the largest sporting events ever to be hosted in the Okanagan has drawn to a close. And Penticton is now embracing the Challenge as it looks to the future.

As the final competitors made their way across the finish line of the Subaru Ironman Canada Triathlon in Penticton Sunday night, work was already well underway on the preparations for the Challenge Penticton event that will replace it.

It’s hard to imagine that next year’s Challenge triathlon will attract the more than 2,500 athletes  who took part in Penticton’s 30th and final Ironman. But with the Challenge Family’s signature event in Roth, Germany  attracting more than 5,000 competitors, there is some reason for optimism for the future of the Penticton triathlon.

While the loss of the iconic Ironman name will diminish the appeal for many of those who come to Penticton for the last Sunday in August, the increasingly corporate feel the event has taken on in recent years has eroded some of the lustre among local residents.

When Graham Fraser sold his Ironman events to the World Triathlon Corporation, the company announced the city would have to pay a “promotion fee,” which reached $60,000 this year. This is on top of the more than $100,000 in in-kind services the city provides for Ironman. The increasing financial emphasis left a bad taste for many residents, who longed for the more community-oriented focus they enjoyed in years gone by.

The new Challenge Penticton event promises to restore some of that informal feel. Replacing the economic clout Ironman brought to Penticton is a formidable task. But the city has taken the first step on that long and challenging road ahead.