Mixed feelings over Vernon Ironman bid

Interest in a major international sports event ranges from uncertainty to passionate enthusiasm.

Interest in a major international sports event ranges from uncertainty to passionate enthusiasm.

Vernon council will decide Monday if the city will bid on hosting rights for Ironman Canada from 2013 to 2017.

“I am throwing all of my support behind this,” said Coun. Brian Quiring.

“The economic spinoff will be huge.”

More than 2,500 endurance athletes participate in Ironman Canada every year. The economic impact on a community can be $1.5 million for accommodation, $1.5 million for food and beverages and $2 million for entertainment and shopping.

Penticton, the former host, experienced a total annual economic impact of $8 to $10 million.

However, the host community is responsible for facilities, an Ironman village, a media centre, storage, policing and medical, road closures and volunteer recruitment.

Firm costs for the host haven’t been determined but it could be $300,000 to $400,000 annually.

“It takes money to make money and it would be a good investment,” said Quiring.

However, Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe has mixed feelings about a bid.

“It would be fantastic because we have two lakes and all of the farm land with paved roads to use,” she said.

“But the millions of dollars in retail (merchandising/supples) don’t go to local businesses but to large companies. They also expect us to provide security and 4,000 volunteers.”

Ironman was in Penticton for 30 years but that community is entering into a new relationship with Challenge Family next year. Both Ironman and Challenge Family could be at the same time.

“I want to see what the benefit is to Vernon because we will be alienating another city in the Okanagan,” said O’Keefe.

The city’s tourism advisory committee and economic development committee are generally in favour of pursuing a bid because of Ironman’s high profile and economic benefit.

“However, they do have some concrns regarding the potential costs of hosting the event,” states a city staff report.

Bid packages must be submitted by Sept. 24 to Tampa, Fla.-based World Triathlon Corporation, owner of Ironman.