Penticton mayor defends decision on triathlon

Penticton’s mayor is urging Vernon to do its own research before pursuing a major sports event.

Penticton’s mayor is urging Vernon to do its own 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  Dan Ashton, Penticton’s mayor. “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 to the event’s parent company, World Triathlon Corporation.

Penticton, which had a contract with the previous rights holder, then sought proposals for a triathlon and presentations were made by the Challenge Family and WTC.

A decision was ultimately made to work with Challenge.

Ashton says the decision was largely based on costs Penticton accrued hosting Ironman.

Ashton says 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.

“There’s also been a great decline in the time the athletes stay in town, which is our economic benefit,” he 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 says 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 says 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. A bid package must be submitted to WTC Sept. 24.

To have your say on whether Vernon should pursue Ironman, vote online at www.vernonmorningstar.com