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Task Force assessing changes to or retention of Ironman competition in Adirondacks

Ironman swim start
Photo provided by Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism
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Ironman Lake Placid swim competition start

The village of Lake Placid has been hosting an Ironman competition for nearly two decades. But with growing criticism about the event, a task force recently conducted a survey to assess whether there should be changes or if the event should be abandoned.

In 2021 the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, or ROOST, signed a one-year extension of the Lake Placid Ironman contract. At the same time it also created a task force to gather community input and make recommendations on whether a long-term contract should be renewed.

A survey of Lake Placid residents and surrounding communities was released in early December and a virtual meeting reviewing the results was recently held.

ROOST CEO Jim McKenna says the survey is intended to help the task force form recommendations for the future of the event.

“This survey is not meant to be a yea or nay. It’s meant to be gathering information so as the task force continues the process of really trying to come to a conclusion with a recommendation on which direction to go. I think it has provided us with a lot of information. There was 6,000, over 6,000, written comments.”

ROOST Director of Digital Strategy Jason Lawrence provided an overview of the survey and noted the first question gauged overall level of support for the Ironman competition.

“Basically the communities as a whole were slightly more in favor of the race than against. The closer you are to the course or a race town the less supportive of the race you were by a bit. If you lived on the course you were much less supportive and regional residents were a bit more supportive than those who lived on the course.”

The survey found the swimming, biking and marathon race, held every year since 1999, except for 2020, is supported by 49 percent of people in the area. 41 percent oppose the event. Lawrence said the second question was freeform and asked people what they disliked. The primary negative expressed was arrogant attitudes and disrespect athletes have towards traffic rules, residents and their property.

The key benefit cited by survey respondents is the positive economic impact for the region.

During the virtual review questions were submitted asking how much the village and town pays to have the Ironman event in the region. McKenna said ROOST has only budgeted for the 2022 race.

“We have budgeted $90,000 for it. This past year it was a hundred-thousand. And that’s pretty consistent with you know since the start of the race it’s actually increased about five thousand a year starting many years ago.”

The task force was then asked to clarify regional costs for hosting Ironman. ROOST Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Lawrence outlined overall event budgeting.

“Right now 122,800 which includes the contract, the staff lodging which is 13,000, the village overtime 7,000, a percentage of Bethany’s salary, the Wilmington Fire Department. What we don’t have is ORDA loss of revenue, the cost of the conference center, the lost revenue for the municipal parking lot. Those are some pieces that we don’t have that we are gathering.”

Some attendees wondered if the region is getting an adequate return on investment. Ironman Regional Director and Task Force member Dave Christen believes the event is one of the best investments a community can make.

“Sales tax that the county gets alone from the economic impact of north of $10 million on the weekend significantly eclipses what the investment is from ROOST and from other parties. That’s just the sales tax. The important thing to recognize is that the economic impact beyond that is additional.”

The Task Force is now holding meetings to craft recommendations for the future of the race. Suggested changes so far include formulating a code of conduct for athletes, changing training and race routes and moving the event date.

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