“This is where Ironman Canada was 35 years ago now. It was raised here, it went to school here, maybe even graduated from Pen High.”
That’s how Dave Christen, regional director of Ironman for Northwestern U.S. and Western Canada, described the city’s relationship with the triathlon competition that stopped taking place here about six years ago. City staff have been in talks with Ironman Canada officials for the past six months about seeing the event return to Penticton, a decision backed by city council at the meeting on May 7 when they directed staff to negotiate a five-year contract with the organization to see its return in 2020.
“Penticton has a very unique placeholder in Ironman history, as one of the longest-standing triathlon communities in the world. There are very few people and communities in the world that can say they’ve participated in this sport as long as Penticton has,” said Christen during the committee of the whole.
Christen outlined how the organization has changed since leaving Penticton, noting that it has expanded and is “more into the running space.” He also provided data to staff and council about typical crowd expectations when hosting an Ironman series, stating globally Ironman hosts 41 races with 100,000 registrants and 2.5 million spectators and a digital reach of 132 million.
“Are we going to be able to enhance the memory of Ironman (in our community)?” asked Coun. Judy Sentes, stating that Penticton is known globally for the triathlon competition and that she’d like to build off of that reputation, not replace it. “That memory included the welcome dinner, the awards dinner … the parade, the give-back to the community, the aid stations. All those things form a memory that is Ironman. And all things change, they have to, but I am afraid that memory may not continue with the new format.”
“That has been the number one priorities of our conversations with city staff, how do we respect and honour legacy but still innovate? How do we still create a new story while remembering the history of this event,” said Christen. “Penticton was, and is, what we often reference as the benchmark of our industry in our internal conversations as a company. We often look back at what was set as a precedent, here. Its traditions, the energy that was built, it was something we try to emulate everywhere else.”
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