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Lake Placid’s value to Ironman has grown

July 27, 2018
Editorial , Lake Placid News

As you read this, the 20th annual Ironman Lake Placid is over and more than 2,000 triathletes have packed up and gone home. The Lake Placid community is busy transitioning to its next big events: the Can-Am Rugby tournament and the Lake Placid Summit Classic lacrosse tournament.

Another Ironman triathlon will follow in September, that one a 70.3 - half the distance of Sunday's 140.6-mile race.

We always welcome Ironman because it is among the biggest of the events that are huge for Lake Placid's economy, due to all the customers they bring to local businesses. This village has gotten very good at hosting big-time events, thanks largely to its experience hosting Ironman 20 times. Ironman has been good for Lake Placid.

The Lake Placid triathlon has been good for Ironman, too.

Lake Placid hosts the second-longest-running Ironman in the Western Hemisphere, after only the original one in Hawaii. The Lake Placid triathlon's course has been repeatedly praised as a perfect mix of challenging and scenic, and the local volunteers corps is spectacular, with experienced team leaders and repeat volunteers who know what they're doing and are hospitable, efficient and hard-working. For those reasons, it's a perfect Ironman location, and over two decades it has become a signature race that the World Triathlon Corporation would not want to lose.

Which needs the other more: the host or the event? Based on how the money changes hands, the current deal is that Lake Placid needs Ironman more than vice versa. The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism that uses lodging taxes to promote the Adirondack region to visitors pays the World Triathlon Corporation to host Ironman, which the for-profit company owns. That amount was $85,000 this year and increases $5,000 each year until the end of the current contract in 2021, when the payment will be $100,000.

On top of that, ROOST pays $100,000 each year for Lake Placid to host the Ironman 70.3.

On the flip side, Ironman gives back to the local community. The Ironman Foundation says this year it gave more than $110,000 worth of local and regional donations and gifts. These include dozens of bikes for local kids as well as children at the Fort Drum Army base, and $50,000 from its Community Grant program.

Of course, $110,000 coming in is notably less than the $185,000 going out to the World Triathlon Corporation. Plus, the outflow is liquid, whereas the selected gifts flowing in are not necessarily what the community would choose if it had that amount to spend in cash.

We accept the deal as it stands now, but when the Lake Placid Ironman's current multi-year contract is up for renewal, we would like the cash payments to World Triathlon Corporation to end. The company already makes a fair bit of money charging $750 to each racer - with around 2,700 registered this year, that revenue adds up to roughly $2 million - and the vast majority of its labor force is volunteers. We believe this community is paying its share in in-kind labor.

We hope local officials will negotiate with this in mind, and we hope World Triathlon Corporation officials will appreciate that the value of its Lake Placid race has appreciated.

In the meantime, to show that they're listening, we wonder if the Ironman Foundation folks would consider some other possibilities for its giving.

What about local infrastructure? Ironman and its triathletes - many of whom train here for months ahead of time - need the local roads and sidewalks, water and sewer pipes and electrical grid to be in top shape. How about sponsoring some of the periodic maintenance and improvements required to keep all that up? It's expensive, and the cost is borne by local and state taxpayers, who are already overburdened. Would Ironman help pay for such a project in the future? Perhaps a sign could even indicate it as the sponsor.

Ironman also requires a massive number of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel to turn out on race day, from state and local agencies all over the region. Would the Ironman foundation start up a series of grants to pay for new police, fire and rescue equipment, and to train new volunteers and professionals?

These are just some ideas, but we think local residents and officials should discuss this kind of thing before Ironman's contract comes up. Lake Placid's Ironman triathlons are world-famous, and for good reason. Local people are proud to host them, and proud that they do such a good job of doing so.

Their representatives should reflect that pride and not be shy about what this community's efforts and location are worth.



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