Community asks questions about Ironman survey

Ironman triathlete Florian Trept pedals on Main Street in Lake Placid in 2019. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

More than 60 people attended a virtual town hall Tuesday to review and discuss the results of a recent Ironman Lake Placid survey, and most of the participants’ questions focused on the local economic impact of the triathlon.

The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism hosted the community call via Zoom after receiving an overwhelming response to a survey that polled participants on their support of the Ironman triathlon. People who live on the race course and surrounding communities took the survey, and the results showed that locals are nearly evenly split in their support of the race.

Out of 1,441 respondents, 49% said they support the race and 41% stood opposed. The remaining 10% claimed a neutral stance on the race.

ROOST released a presentation with the survey findings, along with the raw data from the survey, to the public after the community call. People can view the survey data and the community call video on ROOST’s website (www.roostadk.com) by hovering over the “Scope of Work” tab and selecting “Ironman Communities Task Force.”

Survey findings

The survey was launched on Oct. 20 and closed on Nov. 1. ROOST Data Analyst Jay Bennett compiled the survey along with ROOST Director of Digital Strategy Jasen Lawrence, with input from the Ironman Task Force, a committee created this summer to evaluate the economic and community impacts of the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon.

When asked what the main detriment of the race is, almost 50% of survey takers said that “athletes who come to train here don’t respect the rules of the road and impact my commute.” Two other top complaints were related to race-day traffic and overcrowding in and around town.

Other survey results show that the number one complaint from survey participants was about athlete training leading up to race day.

The race’s “positive impact for the region” ranked as the highest benefit of the race, gathering 38% of participants’ votes. Additional top-ranking benefits were that the race exposes the region as an “international sports destination” and introduces new people to the area.

Members of ROOST, the task force and communities affected by the Ironman triathlon filled the Zoom call Tuesday. ROOST Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Lawrence moderated the call, and Jasen Lawrence presented the survey results.

Mary Jane invited attendees to place questions about the survey data in the Zoom chat box, which accumulated more than 30 questions and comments by the end of the call.

IP addresses

There was some confusion about which survey responses received by ROOST were included in the final presented data. ROOST analyzed the survey data according to IP address to identify duplicate responses, sequential submission times and IP address geolocation. In all, 66 of 1,598 responses were deemed invalid through IP address and removed from the survey results, according to ROOST. Another 91 responses were deleted because they were submitted from zip codes outside the Adirondacks.

Responses would have to be “basically identical” to be flagged as duplicates and removed from the final presented data, according to Jasen. He said ROOST could see when multiple people were taking the survey results in one location. For example, multiple workers at BOCES took the survey, and those results were included in the final data. Content matching helped identify duplicate responses, and McKenna said that around 31 of the 66 deleted responses were duplicates from the same IP address.

Jasen said that the compiled data from the results isn’t perfect and accounts for around a 2% margin of error. All of the discounted responses are still viewable in the survey’s raw data results.

Costs, benefits

While the survey didn’t poll people on the economic impact of the race, most of the questions during the call were concerned with how Ironman affects taxpayers in the community. People asked how much ROOST pays to bring Ironman to the area; how that payment is funded; if the area is getting a return on its investment in the race; what the ratio of costs versus benefits of Ironman is; if local tax dollars contribute to funding the race; and how to consider community and environmental costs that can’t be measured monetarily.

“Was there any discussion about how much (money) ROOST has to pay to bring Ironman to the area?” Barry Brogan asked.

ROOST CEO Jim McKenna said ROOST paid $100,000 for the 2021 Ironman contract and $90,000 for the 2022 contract. Mary Jane said there are some extra expenses, around $22,800, that go toward ROOST employee pay, Ironman staff accommodations, local fire departments and overtime hours worked by the town and village. McKenna confirmed that Essex County occupancy taxes on hotel stays and vacation rentals, along with sales taxes, fund those race expenses.

“I think a lot of us just wonder how much of our tax dollars are going toward funding Ironman,” participant Sarah King said.

McKenna replied that no direct funding from the county, town, or village general funds goes toward the race.

The Ironman Task Force has recently worked to create a budget that identifies the expenses of the triathlon. Mary Jane said some lost revenue isn’t accounted for yet, and that the current budget for Ironman is a “rough draft.” She noted that the budget created with the task force will be released to the public once it’s more complete.

More issues

Mary Jane also addressed the immeasurable cost of “event fatigue” on community members. A participant only identified as “J. Smith” said, “I agree with the ask for a better understanding of the economic impact, but with the remembrance that there is also (an) emotional and mental impact on those who are ‘event fatigued.'”

Mary Jane said that’s a balance that needs to be figured out, and that the race doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” event that is either a blowout race or no race at all; she said that’s what the task force is working through.

Other issues like lake pollution and training leading up to the race were discussed, which Mary Jane and members of the task force have said are hard to pin to the Ironman triathlon alone. However, she discussed the possibility of broader solutions to issues like increased cycling, including working with the state to develop bike lanes.

Ironman representative Dave Christen said the task force and community survey have given Ironman event organizers a starting point to identify areas of the race they can improve, like considering altering race dates or the race course.

“It’s safe to say for the last five or six years our team was focused on producing the race and might not necessarily have been focused on the long-term viability, and that’s an area where we can get better,” Christen said.

The Ironman Task Force is expected to form a recommendation on whether or not the triathlon should continue in the area, and if it does, in what capacity, by the end of December or beginning of January.


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