Ironman Lake Placid agreement extended for one year

After being interviewed by Mike Reilly, “The Voice of Ironman,” an emotional Matt Russell is greeted by his wife Gillian Forman Russell and their son Makaio following his victory in the 2019 Ironman Lake Placid triathlon. (Staff photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — Ironman Lake Placid will return in 2022.

The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, the village of Lake Placid and the town of North Elba announced on Friday that the triathlon would be brought back to Lake Placid in 2022, despite ongoing debate within the community over whether the event should return, and despite village and town lawmakers not having a formal public vote to give the village mayor and town supervisor, respectively, the authority to sign a contract. A formal contract has not been signed yet, according to Mayor Art Devlin.

Devlin said he believes this decision is best for Ironman and the villages and towns its athletes travel through.

“I, as mayor, have spoken with my board and we are all in unanimous agreement that a one-year extension is the most fair solution for all,” Devlin said. He cited ongoing work on an updated comprehensive plan and a new destination management plan, which will “look at how events and residents can exist in harmony,” plus feedback from the community, as factors in the decision.

“We want a chance to put that all together and make an educated decision, not a quick decision,” he said.

A new task force will be created to “address issues surrounding the event while looking for ways to improve community benefits,” according to ROOST.

“I’m in favor of extending it one year, which will give us an opportunity to see if it’s something we want to continue long-term,” North Elba town Supervisor Jay Rand said. “Speaking for all of (the town council), I do believe that we were all on the same page about extending it one year, but on the basis of trying to work more things out with Ironman as well.”

With the signing of a contract, ROOST — which is funded largely through contracts with municipalities and revenue from Essex County’s occupancy tax — will pay Ironman $90,000. Ironman, in turn, typically contributes between $40,000 and $50,000 each year to local nonprofits. Athlete registrations for Ironman have ranged anywhere from $700, for general registration, to $1,400 for a community fund entry.

During a community call on the Ironman contract hosted by ROOST earlier this month, ROOST CEO Jim McKenna said Ironman officials had asked ROOST, the town and the village to make a decision by race day, which is this Sunday, but they were “under no obligation to make a decision that quickly.”

At the end of every Ironman triathlon, athletes are given the option of signing up for next year’s race. Registration for 2022 will be open on Monday, July 26, according to ROOST.

Asked if Ironman officials’ apparent desire for a decision before race day was considered when the village, town and ROOST decided to announce their decision, Devlin said the village wanted “to work with them to make it a successful event.” He reiterated that the village board is “all in agreement that it’s the correct decision to proceed with a one-year contract.”

Asked earlier this week for their opinion on whether Ironman should return or not, village officials seemed mixed. Trustee Marc Galvin said he loves Ironman, though “it’s not the best event from a business perspective.” He said Ironman is a “world-class event” and Lake Placid should be proud of being associated with it. Trustee Jason Leon said if during contract negotiations the event was “made more beneficial for the community” he may feel differently, but as it stands now, he feels Ironman would have to convince the village of why it should return. Trustee Jackie Kelly said she wanted to hear from more people before making a decision. Trustee Peter Holdereid said he’s “over it,” and though his family — which owns the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort — benefits from the event, not everybody does and their opinions should be taken into account, too.

McKenna told the Lake Placid News in 2019 that the full Ironman triathlon brings in $8 million in “direct spending” to the region, not including the economic impact from athletes’ pre-race training.

“We have received a great deal of engagement from area residents and feel it is necessary to address the feedback prior to considering a longer term agreement,” McKenna said in a statement Friday.

Nearly 100 people attended a community call ROOST hosted earlier this month to gather feedback from residents and local businessowners on how the triathlon impacts them. Those who spoke were mixed on whether or not Ironman should return. Much of the conversation surrounded two topics: economic impact and the impact on residents’ lives. Multiple longtime Lake Placid residents spoke about how the triathlon has impacted their lives in a negative way, while others shared strong support for the event and the athletes it draws.

“I think it was a good step for ROOST to reach out and give everybody a chance (to talk) on the community call,” Rand said. “I think there was a lot of good information from both sides.

“I think in light of the fact that we’ve held this event for 22 years and we’ve got a destination management plan getting done, which I think will give us a lot of direction on which way the community wants to go … this was the reasonable thing to do so we can, as a community and a county, since other townships are involved, try to work things out with Ironman so that we all come to a good understanding and address the concerns.”


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