Ironman 70.3 fills Lake Placid

Some see pros, cons of race in September

With a slight mist rising from Mirror Lake, competitors enter the water during an hour-long rolling start to begin the 1.2-mile swim in Sunday’s second Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid triathlon. A field of 2,306 began the race, with 2,191 reaching the finish line. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — For the second year in a row, this village hosted the Ironman 70.3 triathlon Sunday. While it brings in one last rush of tourists before the fall lull, some locals are indifferent to its inclusion in Lake Placid’s already stacked roster of summer events.

Some roads are closed down, visitors fill Main Street and vacation rentals spike upward.

The Enterprise recently held a poll on its website. The question — Is a second Ironman triathlon good for Lake Placid? By the time of this publication, 208 said yes, 169 said no and 31 were undecided.

The Lake Placid Horse Shows, the full Ironman, the Can-Am Rugby tournament and the Lake Placid Summit Classic lacrosse tournament are scheduled in the middle of summer, but the 70.3 comes at the end right as local schools start classes.

Village Mayor Craig Randall said he views the 70.3 as an end-of-the-summer economic boost.

“We have an events committee that determines how things like the Ironman and the lacrosse tournament will affect the village economically and socially,” he said. “so the 70.3 was intended to fill in a weekend that has an otherwise low economic impact on the lodging community.”

Randall said his office didn’t receive any significant backlash related to the 70.3 last year, which he thinks was in part due to the events committee’s strategic placing of the half-Ironman.

“It comes almost a month later than the last of the big events,” he said, “but based on last year, the [negative] impact other than the race course seemed minimal.”

Rainer Schnaars owns and operates the Bluesberry Bakery on Main Street right next to the Palace Theatre, and he said the 70.3 has pros and cons.

“When the town is busy, I’m busy,” he said, “but I don’t know I would mind if it was gone. I’m busy from the Horse Shows to Labor Day. This weekend is decent for business. I don’t mind the athletes. The people are fantastic, but we’re a little far from the event, so sometimes people don’t realize we’re here.”

One aspect of both triathlons Schnaar said he didn’t care for were the vendors set up at the Olympic Speedskating Oval. For the weekends of the races, the oval is converted into an athlete’s village of sorts often featuring food and retail kiosks.

“They’ve got people selling shoes in there when we should just be promoting the Fallen Arch (a locally owned shoe store on Main Street),” he said.

If the village wants to have more events all year-round instead of clustering them into the summer, Schnaars suggested building an indoor sports arena with a track, pool and other amenities for hosting weather-dependent sports.

Financially, the Ironman races work like this. The village has a five-year contract for the full Ironman and a one-year contract for the 70.3. Both are handled by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. Marketing fees start at $85,000 then go up $5,000 every year for the full Ironman. The village is in its second year, so the cost this past July was $90,000. The yearly contract for the Ironman 70.3 is $100,000.

ROOST Communications Coordinator Carrie Gentile said in an email that those fees go toward Ironman USA maintaining websites and social media for the races.

“One prime example is during this year’s full Ironman in July,” she said. “Ironman [USA] posted live on Facebook, and it received 4 million views.”

The Lake Placid Ironman used to be owned by entrepreneur Graham Fraser until he sold it to the Dalian Wanda Group Co., Ltd., a private Chinese conglomerate, which now owns 100 percent of the Ironman triathlons.

Carlyn Miller has competed in past Ironman triathlons, and on Sunday she volunteered, directing competitors and pedestrians. She used to live full-time in Lake Placid, but she’s since moved to Albany and now rents out her property for long-term stays.

“I think where a lot of the negative issues come from and stem from are athletes not respecting the road rules,” she said. “And so people, I think, take a lot of that out on Ironman as a corporation. What a lot of folks don’t realize is Ironman used to give large sums of money to the town. Now they do much smaller donations but spread them across local organizations like the [New York Ski Educational Foundation], the American Legion, softball clubs the high school’s track and cross-country teams. So there are a lot of local kids that are benefiting from Ironman, and there are a lot of local organizations that are benefiting, too.”