Spokane Journal of Business

Ironman likely to draw thousands, earn millions

Coeur dÂ’Alene one of six North American cities tapped to host event

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Question: What can Ironman athletes do besides swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles, all in a single day?

Answer: spend money.

The Ironman triathlon competition thats to be held in Coeur dAlene June 29 is expected to pump between $5 million and $7 million into the Inland Northwest region, organizers of the event say.

Up to 1,900 athletes will descend on the areabringing an average of 2.5 family members and friends along apieceand will stay an average of 4.5 days, says Shane Facteau, spokesman for Ironman North America, the Lake Placid, N.Y., organization that oversees Ironman events in the U.S. and Canada.

Most of those people will be from outside the region, since only about 50 local athletes have registered to compete in the Coeur dAlene race, says Eric Sawyer, executive director of the Spokane Regional Sports Commission, which, along with the Coeur dAlene Chamber of Commerce, worked to attract the event to the Inland Northwest.

Add to that mix the 3,000 volunteers who will help with tasks ranging from catching the spent athletes as they cross the finish line to handing out water en route, and anywhere from 15,000 to 50,000 spectators on race day, and youve got a huge economic impact, Sawyer says.

Its pretty significant, obviously for Coeur dAlene as well as for the region, he says.

Whats more, the race will provide incalculable publicity benefits since it will be broadcast on ESPN, he says.

The North Idaho race, which officially is called Ironman USA Triathlon Coeur dAlene, is one of six such events in North America.

Athletes who take part in the Coeur dAlene event will be competing for 80 spots in the Ironman World Championship, which will be held in Hawaii in October, plus a $50,000 prize purse. The Coeur dAlene races more than 2,000 available slots filled in five and a half weeks, although not all of those who registered are expected to participate.

The Ironman course in Coeur dAlene begins with a two-loop swim that will start on the beach just west of the Coeur dAlene Resort; next, athletes will bike 112 miles on a two-loop route that will take them to Post Falls and back; then they will run 26.2 miles in two loops mostly along the lake shore.

The Coeur dAlene Chamber of Commerce hired veteran sports-event coordinator and Coeur dAlene native Sara Fladeland to recruit 3,000 volunteers and 150 to 200 medical personnel.

Fladeland, who most recently worked in event operations for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, says she hopes to have all volunteers on board by late April. Volunteers mostly are expected to come from the Inland Northwest, and will be rewarded for their efforts with free T-shirts and an appreciation banquet.

Ironman North America has agreed to hold a race in Coeur dAlene each year for five years, but that contract likely would be extended if things go well, Facteau says.

Because of that, Ironman Coeur dAlene has the potential to become the next Bloomsday or Hoopfest for the region in terms of economic impact, Sawyer says.

The socio-economic status of an Ironman athlete is unusually high, with an average household income of about $100,000, Facteau says. Ironman is an expensive sport, he explains, with athletes bicycles costing up to $8,000, not to mention the cost of other gear, such as wetsuits, and training.

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