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GUEST COMMENTARY: It’s time to consider the value of Ironman

June 27, 2011
Julie Voss and Kenny Boettger, of Placid Planet Bicycles
Summer has arrived and with it the annual bickering about cyclists, drivers, runners, motorcycles and frankly tourists in general. We need to all remember, tourism drives the economy of the North Country.

The recent letter scolding “bicycle race organizers and bicycle shops in Lake Placid” (letter to the editor, “Bicyclists should follow the law, June 3 Lake Placid News) reminds us all that some cyclists are jerks. Let me be very clear, at Placid Planet we aggressively attempt to impart the rules of the road to all of our clients and strongly urge them to be considerate of their fellow human beings at all times. The vast majority of people cycling in the area, whether tourists or residents, do their best to be respectful.

As cyclists, we know there are also some jerks driving cars. We are skeptical that a driver was given the finger for absolutely no reason. It has been said time and time again, but we all participate in this problem and we all need to work together to solve it.

This brings us back to our first point – our local economy is driven by tourism. Tourism is the main source of revenue for the region. Currently, it is possible Lake Placid will lose the Ironman event — a source of an estimated $10 million in direct income that has a $50 million impact on this region. Regardless of how people may wish to sugar coat the situation, that is a fact. And it is a fact all of the stake holders in this area should not ignore.

We were not privy to the details of the negotiations that resulted in the current contract between Lake Placid and World Triathlon which ends in 2012. Our attempts to understand what unfolded have been met with two responses - unreturned phone calls and the current explanation we read again in the past few days that we paraphrase as “don’t worry, this area is so special and the event so successful, it will never leave.” Well guess what, that is not correct. By almost accounts, the Tremblant Ironman and the NYC Ironman are designed to replace the Lake Placid Ironman.

For whatever reason, the details of the contract negotiation for this event are top secret, but we have every reason to believe that World Triathlon wants additional revenue from future races, possibly in the form of a small percentage of the lodging revenue from the week of the event and additional local participation in the expense portion of the equation. We are not hoteliers and frankly have no idea how common this practice is, but we do know that World Triathlon receives similar compensation from most, if not all, of their other venues.

What should we do? We propose open, honest and creative discussions between those with a vested interest in this situation and the authorities who will negotiate any possible future contracts. We believe Lake Placid should present a package to World Triathlon that they will find appealing and in line with what other venues offer. How will we do this? We don’t know but it is time to figure it out. $50 million in spending generates just under $4 million in Sales Tax revenue for Essex County and the State of New York. Seemingly, there should be a budget to work with. No one has ever asked if Placid Planet would be willing to contribute financially in some way to maintain an Ironman event in Lake Placid. We would not welcome the idea, but we would certainly consider it. We have no choice.

Is it about the money? Yup. We very much want Ironman to continue in Lake Placid but our business will survive with or without it. However, we will not need the 15 employees we currently have. They and their families will be the ones who bear the brunt of the loss. Of course, we will not go out to dinner, or get our teeth cleaned, or get the house painted either. We will not be able to support local events and charities, go to the gym or pay for insurance. And we will not need to write all of those hefty sales tax checks to the County and the State.

I t is time for each of us who has ever sold a hotel room to a triathlete, served them a meal, rented them a condo, sold them a tee shirt or put gas in their car to stand up and figure out what we need to do as community to continue to embrace and maintain this terrific event .

And we need to do it right now.



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