Melissa Spooner (facing)

Melissa Spooner (facing)

Vernon in the running for Ironman

Three-time Ironman winner Melissa Spooner led the high-fives in Vernon council chambers Friday.

Three-time Ironman winner Melissa Spooner led the high-fives in Vernon council chambers Friday.

Spooner, along with about 30 other supporters, got the news she was hoping to hear; that the City of Vernon would submit a bid to host the Ironman Canada triathlon beginning in 2013.

“It’s exciting, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Vernon,” said Spooner. “I think once Vernon realizes, and maybe it will take having to have it here for one year to see, the impact it can have, the people of Vernon will get it.

“This is way more than a race. The race itself is awesome but it’s about building the community and having an amazing opportunity.”

Vernon council held a special in-camera meeting for more than 90 minutes Friday before opening the doors to the public and holding a special meeting in regards to the bid.

What was said in the meeting, and how council voted on the matter, remains behind closed doors.

Council unanimously voted to release its report on the bid on Tuesday.

“Council has directed administration to forward a bid submission to host Ironman Canada from 2013 to 2017, consistent with terms and conditions, including a budget to be considered a ‘maximum amount,’” said Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky.

“All budget information, excepting that protected by contract with the World Triathlon Corporation, will be declassified and released to the public as of Oct. 11, 2012.”

Bids for the 2013 Ironman, and subsequent years, must be submitted to the WTC, which owns and operates Ironman Canada, by Monday. The WTC announcement of the host city will be made Oct. 10.

The city has spent the last few weeks putting together a bid proposal, which included having Spooner narrate a five-minute video piece showcasing Vernon and its natural beauty.

Kim Flick, the city’s planning and building services manager, told the gallery gathered for the announcement that the city received 722 e-mails in support of submitting a bid to host the triathlon, compared to 44 against.

“We also have interest from 550 families indicating they’d be willing to volunteer and 33 businesses came forward expressing an interest in sponsorship opportunities,” said Flick.

“We also received letters of support from each community in the Regional District as well as from the Okanagan Indian Band, Lake Country, Salmon Arm and (Vernon-Monashee) MLA Eric Foster.”

The WTC announced in August it was looking for a new home for the triathlon after being held in Penticton the last 30 years.

The City of Penticton has entered in a new triathlon relationship with an organization called Challenge Family next year.

Steve Meckfessel, with the World Triathlon Corporation, said Vernon kept popping up on the shortlist as well as did Kelowna, Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler.

Kelowna and Kamloops have officially submitted bids to host the race.

Spooner has competed in more than 20 Ironman races, which sees competitors swim 3.86-km., cycle 180.25-km and finish with a 42.2-km run, around the world, winning in Lake Placid, N.Y., the Canary Islands and New Zealand.

She volunteered at the 1993 Ironman Canada in Penticton and competed in it the following year. She never won Ironman Canada but did place second.

Spooner thinks Vernon has a great chance of submitting the winning bid.

“I think Vernon has every opportunity to create its own event in its own way that will make it an amazing event for what Ironman needs,” said Spooner. “It’s a great community, an opportunity to showcase the beauty that we have. I bring people up here to train and they love it.

“We have the opportunity now. I wouldn’t be behind it (bid) if I didn’t think our town could do it.”

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton said the decision to work with Challenge Family was largely based on costs Penticton accrued hosting Ironman.

Ashton said 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.