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Village officials mixed on Ironman contract

Ironman triathletes line up at the municipal beach on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid in July 2019. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — Village officials, much like the community, are mixed on whether they believe the Ironman triathlon should return to Lake Placid in 2022.

The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, the town of North Elba, the village of Lake Placid and Ironman usually sign a multi-year contract that ensures the triathlon returns to this area. That contract is now up for renewal, and it’s less clear this year whether local officials will decide to renew it. If it is renewed, ROOST — which is funded largely through contracts with municipalities and revenue from Essex County’s occupancy tax — would pay Ironman $90,000 to bring the event back in 2022. Ironman, in turn, typically contributes between $40,000 and $50,000 each year to local nonprofits.

As part of its shift toward a “destination management” approach — marketing the type of tourism that works best for both the community and the visitor — ROOST hosted a community call to gather feedback on the contract last week. The response from the community was mixed. Some felt that Ironman had overstayed its welcome, some felt Ironman should be moved to a different time of year so it doesn’t conflict with peak tourism season, and others expressed steadfast support for the event and the athletes it draws here.

The village board and town council would need to authorize Mayor Art Devlin and Supervisor Jay Rand, respectively, to sign the contract with Ironman before it could be renewed.

“My opinion is it’s too bad we didn’t have this destination management plan (before) and have this contract expire next year,” Devlin said. “At this point, I think we should extend it until such a time that the destination management plan can determine what’s best for the community. That’s just my opinion.”

A draft of Lake Placid’s destination management plan, which will essentially be a roadmap for balancing the quality of life for residents and the quality of the visitors’ experiences here, is expected to be complete by October.

Devlin also mentioned Ironman’s contribution to local nonprofits. Ironman typically contributes between $40,000 and $50,000 each year to local projects.

Trustee Marc Galvin, who co-owns the Bookstore Plus on Main Street and the Blue Line Book Exchange, said he loves Ironman, though “it’s not the best event from a business perspective.”

Local business owners are mixed about the triathlon’s impact. Mirror Lake Inn Marketing Manager Chris Jarvis said last week that he believes Ironman would be “more desirable at a different time” of year because at its current time it deters leisure travelers, while Lake Placid Pub & Brewery owner Chris Ericson said he typically sees an uptick in business during Ironman weekend.

Galvin, who has a vacation rental in his building on Main Street, said he hosted a few people in the last two weeks of May who were in Lake Placid to train ahead of the triathlon.

“That’s when they have time to shop,” he said. “It’s such a world-class event. I think having Lake Placid associated with it, we should be proud of that.”

Trustee Jason Leon, who is a technology coordinator at the Lake Placid Central School District, said Ironman would “have to sell it.”

“I love the event, I love taking it in, I love the atmosphere and I love race day,” he said. “But I can see where the community as a whole … some of the feedback that was saying, ‘Maybe it’s time to explore other options.'”

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, who is also the Conference Center manager for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, said she would need to hear from more people before making a decision.

“I see the pros and I see the cons,” she said.

Kelly said that Ironman is “weatherproof” — meaning it’ll happen whether it’s raining or sunny — and that kind of reliability is one of the benefits she sees.

“We have to take a lot of things into consideration,” she said.

Trustee Peter Holdereid, whose family owns the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, said he’s “over it.”

“I used to be one of (Ironman’s) biggest supporters, but there’s no other event that negatively effects the locals as much,” he said. “My family benefits tremendously, but not everybody does, and we have to take their opinion into account as well.”

ROOST CEO Jim McKenna, during the July 14 community call, said Ironman officials would like to know whether the contract will be renewed by this year’s race, which is this Sunday, July 25. But ROOST, North Elba and Lake Placid are “under no obligation to make a decision that quickly,” he said.

Asked about that request for a decision by July 25, Devlin said Monday that he would have to talk with Rand and ROOST about that. Holderied said a decision seemed unlikely by then.

The Ironman triathlon — which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run — has been held in Lake Placid since 1999. Lake Placid also hosted the Ironman 70.3 race for a few years. Ironman 70.3 is not expected to return to Lake Placid in the foreseeable future, according to ROOST.

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