Volunteers spread out across Vernon to generate public support for an Ironman Canada bid.

Volunteers spread out across Vernon to generate public support for an Ironman Canada bid.

Dreams of Ironman glory cut short

Local residents and officials disappointed event not coming to Vernon

Competitors had barely hit the course running when Vernon’s vision of victory stumbled.

Just four days after submitting a bid, the City of Vernon learned late Friday that it was not short-listed to host Ironman Canada for 2013 to 2017.

“We thought this fits Vernon,” said Kevin Poole, economic development manager, who is clearly disappointed with the outcome.

“I had thought, let’s go big or let’s go home.”

Poole spoke with Ironman officials in Tampa, Florida about their decision.

“I was told we put in a fantastic bid and we could have hosted it. The route options worked,” he said.

“But they were looking for the athlete experience. They said their athletes will be attracted to a resort community, which is why they are looking at Whistler and Huntsville, Ont., or a mid-major market, which Kelowna qualifies as.”

The World Triathlon Corporation, which owns Ironman, is saying little about its decision.

“We selected the three we did because they presented the three most compelling proposals,” said Steve Meckfessel, WTC’s global race operations managing director.

“The Vernon community and those pulling together that bid did an amazing job.”

The opportunity to host Ironman Canada opened up after Penticton severed its relationship with the event after 30 years. Seven communities submitted bids.

The prospect of hosting an international sports event galvanized the North Okanagan community.

“There’s never been anything like this where there was support from right across the region,” said Poole.

About 722 letters of support from residents and adjacent jurisdictions were generated within a week, and triathlon enthusiasts spread out across the community to bring  residents on board.

“We felt strongly about our bid and we still feel confident we could have hosted the event,” said Jade Kersey, who was part of a citizens’ group involved in the city’s bid process.

While disappointed, Kersey admits the decision must be accepted.

“World Triathlon Corporation has to do what’s best for them.”

Among those who worked around-the-clock on the city’s bid was Mayor Rob Sawatzky, who ensured nearby municipalities would endorse the plans.

“The realities of the world are a competitive one and the company had to make a decision but I thought we were competitive,” he said.

“It’s disappointing for the community and for the city staff who put so much hard work into this bid.”

With Vernon now on the sidelines, all eyes are on the finish line.

“We want Ironman to stay in the Okanagan,” said Poole.

“If Kelowna gets it, that’s good for our hotels and good for our athletes.”

Poole isn’t sure if the City of Vernon would direct resources towards a Kelowna Ironman although one of Kelowna’s proposed routes goes to Predator Ridge.

“There would have to be some discussions,” he said.

The new host of Ironman Canada will be announced Oct. 10 in Hawaii.