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North Elba Town Council OKs 3-year Ironman contract

John Cooling (1777) competes in the 2019 Ironman Lake Placid triathlon. (News photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — The North Elba Town Council on Tuesday, March 1, approved the return of the Ironman Lake Placid Triathlon through 2024.

The Ironman Task Force, a committee created last summer to assess the community impacts of Ironman, recently recommended an extension for the race through 2023, among other recommendations to address residents’ concerns with the race and improve athlete safety. Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Lawrence said that after receiving the task force’s recommendations, the Ironman Group, the company behind the triathlon, asked for at least a contract extension through 2024.

Lawrence said that the group’s reasoning behind its request was that the next three years would give them more time to successfully implement the changes the task force is recommending, and, should the area decide to end its relationship with Ironman, an extra year would give the group some time to find a new location for the race and create a new course.

Lawrence told the town council on Tuesday that all the task force members who agreed to the two-year extension through 2023 also supported the three-year extension through 2024.

Lawrence said the three-year contract already has support from the town of Keene and the village of Lake Placid. She said the town of Wilmington has additional requests for the task force to review before committing further, and she plans to speak with the town of Jay on March 10.

The town of Wilmington asked the task force to add a recommendation to its list asking Ironman to highlight local athletes in the race by giving them different colored bibs and allowing them to register later for the race. Lawrence said the town of Jay has brought up changing the dates of the race so it doesn’t take place in the middle of the summer season, but she added that that would be a recommendation to consider in the later years of the contract.

Lawrence said ROOST has been working with the Ironman Group to make sure that each of the task force’s recommendations are addressed within a certain amount of time. Some of the recommendations, like creating a contact person between locals and the Ironman Group and creating an informative map for athletes that highlights local communities, are expected to be addressed for this year’s race. More involved recommendations, like the possibility of changing the layout of the race course or the date of the race, would likely be addressed in the last year or two of the contract.

Councilor Jason Leon raised the concern that the town council would be agreeing to three more years of Ironman without seeing material changes to the race from the Ironman Group ahead of time. He wanted to know if there would be an option to opt out of the contract should the Ironman Group not fulfill the task force’s recommendations within a reasonable amount of time. Councilor Emily Politi said that the contract would have a standard opt-out clause stating that if any party involved in the Ironman contract does not fulfill the agreements of the document, then a party could terminate the contract.

The task force’s recommendations aren’t expected to be a part of the official Ironman contract, according to Lawrence, but they would be attached to the contract in a memorandum of understanding. Politi said she would agree to vote “yes” for Ironman as long as the contract explicitly refers to the recommendations made in the memorandum of understanding.

“I don’t hear any other thing that could remotely replace what we have with this event at this time, and supporting a group that’s been here so many years and giving them three years to get what we want — yeah, I’ll make a motion right now, that we move ahead with the three-year proposal, and we have a plan in place that can be assessed and measure the things that we want,” Town supervisor Derek Doty said Tuesday. “Along with the three years, I’d like to commit the town board to working with ROOST and Ironman to make it work.”

Doty was supportive of the working relationship between the task force, ROOST and the Ironman Group, and he said he was willing to take the time needed to make things work between the community and Ironman.