April 28, 2013

Hilton Head to apply to be Ironman Triathlon race site

Myrtle Beach also is planning to apply to bring the triathlon to town

Hilton Head Island is known as a place to rest your body and relax, but some island leaders are hoping it also will become a place to push the human limits of stress and endurance.

The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce plans to enter the island into a competition to be selected as a host site for an Ironman Triathlon to be held in fall 2014.

Myrtle Beach also is planning to throw its hat into the ring of cities bidding to bring the race to town. Myrtle Beach City Council approved a resolution Tuesday that gives the city manager the ability to take actions to demonstrate the city’s willingness to work with organizations and bring the triathlon to Myrtle Beach from 2014 to 2018, though specifics still would have to be authorized by the council.

The city is considering paying a $40,000 bid fee when it throws its hat in the ring, Myrtle Beach city manager Tom Leath said. The city would pay about $15,000 of that and Leath said the rest of the money is expected to come from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

Nearly 2,500 triathletes are expected to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles in the race. The competitors also are predicted to bring a $10 million to $15 million economic boost through lodging, food and beverage, retail and other purchases, according to Hilton Head Island-Bluffton chamber president Bill Miles.

“The economic impact and caliber of the participants really make this a good opportunity for Hilton Head Island and the whole Lowcountry,” Miles said.

Ironman competitors are not just world-class athletes; they tend to be the type of traveler that Hilton Head tries to attract. According to the Ironman organization, 92 percent of the participants have college degrees, and their average household income is $174,000.

“The demographics for the competitors is a natural fit for Hilton Head Island,” Miles said.

Hilton Head was one of many communities solicited by Ironman to apply to host an annual southeast regional race in fall 2014. The selected site will be offered a five-year agreement to host the race.

The deadline to turn in the application is Tuesday. The application still needs to be completed, but Miles said it will be submitted on time. Part of the application is listing route suggestions, but Miles said Thursday none has been chosen yet.

In Myrtle Beach, Leath said the bid would suggest to hold the event in the second week of September for five years beginning in 2014. He said local organizers are working on firming up their route.

In a presentation to Myrtle Beach City Council on Tuesday, event organizers suggested a route where participants would swim in the Intracoastal Waterway at Marina Inn, bike from Marina Inn to S.C. 31 and back.

Then athletes would run from Marina Inn to Robert Grissom Parkway to Harrelson Boulevard to Farrow Parkway and end at The Market Common.

The race would offer athletes an opportunity to compete in a bigger race on a bigger island. Athletes who post adequate times could qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kialua-Kona, Hawaii.

Panama City, Fla., and Louisville, Ky., also host Ironman races, but their proximity shouldn’t affect the ability to attract athletes to South Caroilna, chamber spokeswoman Charlie Clark said. Most competitor spots for the races sell out within minutes of opening, according to Ironman.

The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton chamber would not need a vote of approval from Hilton Head Town Council to submit the application. Both Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach might need to provide law enforcement, EMS and waste management for the race.

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