ROOST presents draft of Ironman recommendations

Volunteers help Ironman Lake Placid triathletes peel off their swim suits after the swim portion on Mirror Lake during the 2019 race. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism officials are in the process of presenting recommendations on the future of the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon — including a 2023 contract extension — to town and village boards along the race course.

ROOST CEO Jim McKenna and Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Lawrence attended the North Elba Town Council’s meeting on Feb. 1 and shared a document with more than eight recommendations on the future of the race, which were put together by a task force created last summer to evaluate the economic and community impacts of Ironman.

ROOST also presented the recommendations to the Wilmington Town Council during its Feb. 8 meeting.

All of the recommendations are intended for the races in 2022 and 2023, according to the document, which signals a recommendation of at least a one-year contract extension for Ironman.

A one-year contract extension for this year’s Ironman race was agreed to last July.

These recommendations aren’t final. McKenna said ROOST plans to present the recommendations to the town of North Elba, the village of Lake Placid, and the towns of Jay, Wilmington and Keene to get feedback from town and village officials and do some more “fine tuning.” Lawrence and McKenna said they hope to form a “solid recommendation” once ROOST has finished its presentations, which McKenna said should be done before the town of North Elba’s next meeting on March 1.

Ironman contact

Lawrence said that the task force often identified a “disconnect” between the community and the Ironman corporation, so the task force first recommends that Ironman establish a dedicated contact who has direct access to the Ironman corporation and would be available to answer community questions in the three weeks leading up to the race and in the week following its end. The task force wants responses to those questions to be “timely with a direct connection to someone in a decision-making position,” according to ROOST’s document outlining the task force recommendations.

Training camps

The second recommendation asks Ironman to issue a clear code of conduct to its athletes who are training here for the race, with specific consequences for rule-breaking that can be enforced and are consistent with state laws.

Throughout the past few months, the task force often discussed problems with cyclists and motorists in its meetings, with some members saying that some cyclists would ride three or four abreast while biking down the highway and cause disruption to drivers. Some task force members, who are cyclists, have said that motorists can be disrespectful to them, too, even when cyclists are following the rules of the road. The task force underscored a need for mutual education on the rules of the road surrounding the triathlon.

They recommend that Ironman and ROOST collaborate on “verbiage, platforms and signage” to support that effort.

Highlight communities

The task force wants athletes who compete in Ironman to have a better sense of place while training here and on race day, and the task force believes a map and other information about the communities along the race course could establish a lasting connection with athletes and encourage them to return for visits.

The recommended map would also highlight bathrooms and rest stops for water and food, clearly communicate the laws of the road, suggest less trafficked routes and discourage highly populated routes, and provide QR codes to a website that would show routes that take athletes beyond the Ironman course.

The task force also recommends a review of Ironman’s annual impact and giveback in the community and a more prominent showcase of that giveback. According to ROOST, the Ironman Foundation donates around $40,000 to the community.

Race day congestion

Task force members regularly mentioned that residents on the race course often have problems getting out of their driveways and navigating around town on race day. The group recommends the use of “escorts” to help people get through the traffic and suggested establishing a “command center” that people can call to request an escort.

The task force is also recommending clear communication about when and where there are high congestion areas, and when road access will be open, closed or “subject to special request.” They want Ironman to establish a race day hotline that locals can call when they’re having issues that Ironman staff could address in real time.

Other recommendations

The task force wants to establish better communication with athletes about community updates and guidelines. They are recommending notifying Ironman about any hotel closures as well as camping and parking lot restrictions. They want to limit tent set-ups for race day to no more than 24 hours before the race, and offer off-site daily parking for athletes.

The task force recommends putting a cap on the number of athletes who can register for the race. Some members of the task force have expressed concern that the number of athletes will continue to grow to a point that could overwhelm municipalities on the race course.

Ironman pays fire departments, ambulances and other emergency services to attend to race day, according to ROOST’s document. ROOST wants to work with Ironman to find ways to better offset the direct cost of those services, and they want to make an agreement with New York State Police and race course towns and Ironman that’s “fair and equitable.”

According to a letter from Troop B Commander Ruben Anthony Oliver sent to the Ironman World Headquarters on June 9, 2021, the New York State Police agency has used its operating budget to provide police services for the race since it started in 1999, without compensation from Ironman. An attached memorandum of understanding listed those costs as being nearly $180,000 per race.

The task force also wants to consider reviewing alternate courses and race dates for the 2023 race, with the possibility of hosting the race on alternating years.

More steps

The ROOST document also lists how ROOST might support the towns in further analyzing the impacts of Ironman. ROOST wants to get a better understanding of the financial impact of the race on the area. ROOST wants to establish a committee to review the fulfillment of the finalized recommendations during this year’s race. Then, according to the document, they would work with Ironman on further improvements for 2023.

Some task force members have said they want to survey registered voters in race course municipalities following the implementation of those changes, and the document says that’s something for ROOST and the towns to consider.

ROOST is also recommending a third-party economic impact analysis on the race, including direct spending during race week, training, Ironman operations local spending, foundation grants and Ironman brand/marketing value.

Starting at $1.44/week.

Subscribe Today