Ironman Task Force drafts recommendations
LAKE PLACID — Members of the Ironman Task Force have started workshopping recommendations for potential changes to the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon. They met again on Tuesday, Dec. 14.
The committee — composed of local officials, community members and business owners — was created this past summer to evaluate the economic and community impacts of the annual race. Members plan to make recommendations on how the race could be improved and if local officials should extend Lake Placid’s contract with Ironman beyond 2022.
The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism sent a survey to communities affected by the race to better understand locals’ feelings and pressure points related to Ironman. Survey results showed that the community is nearly evenly split on whether it supports the race continuing here, and survey takers submitted thousands of short answers identifying specific problems with the race. Now, after analyzing that data, the committee has created a document with a working list of suggestions for changes to the 2022 race according to top complaints from the survey. The committee has not yet determined if they will recommend a contract extension.
Task force members met on Tuesday and planned to have two more meetings in January: one to hear feedback from the Ironman team on race changes it’s willing to consider, and one to finalize recommendations from the task force.
To address problems with athletes disregarding road rules, the task force suggested that coaches register and get a permit for each camp of athletes. Ironman Regional Race Director Dave Christen said it was a great idea, but that the term “permit” could cause issues because it implies that someone would have to be in charge of enforcing the permit. He said Ironman already gives its athletes a code of conduct.
Christen said Ironman will likely suggest a method for determining which groups are training for its triathlon. Members of the task force have said in the past that it’s hard to tell which cyclists are here training for Ironman and who may be training for other reasons, or simply out for a ride. ROOST Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Lawrence said the permitting system could be beneficial as a townwide rule, not just for Ironman.
Another suggestion was for ROOST to establish a new task force to work specifically on bike and auto safety in the area, including developing and publishing suggested and discouraged bike routes. It could work with the state Department of Transportation to establish and extend a bike and pedestrian coordinator or with the state Bicycling Coalition to promote safe roads and knowledge of state laws.
Task force members suggested that Ironman engage registered athletes with a code of conduct and rules of the road.
They also requested more porta johns on the course throughout the year, with units that are “built out” instead of individual porta john stations. Christen said Ironman is expected to suggest promoting bike stops at local businesses to athletes where they could use facilities and contribute to local economies. He said he didn’t see a reason why those topics couldn’t be addressed for the 2022 race in July.
The document also suggested that Ironman organize and incentivize training athletes to participate in a service day after their camp, but task force members didn’t discuss that recommendation.
Task force members asked that Ironman establish a single point of contact in their organization for local residents and businesses to communicate with prior to race day. Christen said that could be tough, and comments from the public are best filtered through “public entities” to Ironman. He said he’d want to talk with the task force and local leaders to see how they would prefer the public communicate with Ironman.
“We can absolutely set up a way in which we track the comments coming in and we handle them, a conduit to us through the entity,” he said.
Lawrence said that last year, the Ironman contact wasn’t available to resolve situations as they came up. She added that the community needed the point of contact to alert them to changes leading up to the race.
Christen said Ironman would try to improve communications, “effective immediately.”
Task force members requested more collaboration on decisions, including scheduling, number of attendees and location. They also asked for more giveback to the community from Ironman, like giving Ironman volunteers a $25 gift card to local businesses.
Task force member David Lally said he thought the gift card money would be better donated to towns affected by the race. ROOST Event Coordinator and Volunteer Director Bethany Valenze said she didn’t think the volunteers were looking for vouchers to the community and said volunteers like the “swag” they get volunteering — quality shirts and hats. She also said most volunteers are with groups, not volunteering individually, and aren’t looking for a profit.
Suggestions for reducing overcrowding and travel delays in town on and before the race included exploring options to reduce road closures and allow one-way traffic and ensuring that residents can leave town without rerouting or adding significant mileage to their trip.
Christen said Ironman plans to look at the traffic control plan for the race at the beginning of next year to determine how to better handle traffic issues in the 2022 race.
Task force members also floated ideas of having the race alternate between a full triathlon and a half race every year and placing a cap on the athletes who are allowed to register.
To address the loss of revenue some businesses experience during the race, the task force suggested adding a local business section — farmers market style — to the Ironman athlete village for businesses in race towns. Christen said this has occurred in the past, but that Ironman hasn’t gotten much interest from local businesses in participating in the event. Lawrence said it was expensive for businesses to participate, and Christen said, “It doesn’t need to be,” and that cost is something Ironman could “make go away.”
Task force members recommended that Ironman give money to athletes for local meals rather than hosting an opening dinner, and marketing local businesses ahead of the race.
Christen said Ironman has two recommended items related to promoting local businesses that his team will present to the task force.
In addition to their suggestions, task force members discussed the possibility of moving the race dates to June or September. The race usually takes place in July.
Christen said the Ironman team would be open to discussing date changes, but putting the race during Labor Day weekend would make the race more of an “athlete trip” rather than a “family trip” since that’s the time most kids are going back to school. Task force member Sue Young added that having the race on Labor Day weekend would shift training to peak tourism season, during July and August.
Committee members also exchanged thoughts about changing the race course on alternating years, or only hosting the triathlon in Lake Placid every other year. Christen said the Ironman team has looked into alternate routes, but has had a hard time finding a better one than the current route. He said the team is still open to considering the possibility of alternate routes.
The task force will meet again on Jan. 4 to hear recommendations from Ironman.