The Ironman Group has canceled Ironman Alaska in Juneau for 2023 and 2024, citing impacts from global inflation and economic pressure, Travel Juneau, the contracted host for the event, announced Friday afternoon.
“The contract at this point has been terminated,” Travel Juneau President and CEO Liz Perry told the Empire. “This was not mutual, this is not something we wanted.”
The second Ironman Alaska was set to take place on Aug. 6, 2023, and according to a news release announcing the cancellation, the athletes who had registered for the event should expect additional information from the Ironman Group regarding deferrals.
“Despite having a wonderful host community, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue IRONMAN Alaska,” states the Ironman Alaska event page. “We would like to thank our athletes, volunteers, and local partners, the City of Juneau, Travel Juneau, the University of Alaska Southeast, the local Tlingit people and the entire Juneau community. Not only did Alaskans come out to take on the inaugural race, but local culture and community was an important aspect in the creation of and huge race day support for IRONMAN Alaska. We would also like to thank all of our sponsors for their partnership in helping to ensure race experiences lived up to the destination.”
In September, Perry and other officials held a panel discussing the future of the event as time ticked closer to the 2023 competition. At the time, Ironman officials said the race could have a future in Juneau beyond the length of the contract.
According to Perry, she was notified of the Ironman Group’s decision within the last couple of days and said it was strictly a financial decision by the Ironman Group.
“This is certainly an emotional blow to the community,” she said, adding that it’s important for the community to understand that the cancellation is not because of something that the community did or didn’t do. “It is strictly a financial thing on their side.”
Jeff Rogers, CBJ finance director, said at the September panel around $7-8 million can be associated with the amount of out-of-town visitors that came to Juneau during the 2022 race weekend, and between July and September of this year, the City and Borough of Juneau collected more than $20.2 million in sales tax revenue — $2.3 million more than originally expected.
“I think we’re starting to see a pre-pandemic economy, ” Rogers previously told the Empire. “I think it really comes down to three things: Ironman, inflation and healthy spending by tourism and locals.”
Rogers, an Ironman Alaska 2022 finisher who also was signed up to compete in next year’s race, said he’d be speculating how much the cancellation is going to impact Juneau, but it will prompt an adjustment to the city’s sales tax forecast because of the size and significant impact of the event.
“It definitely has an impact, but it can also create other opportunities and Juneau’s loss is probably another city’s gain,” he said.
Rogers said the cancellation will likely also have an impact on the city’s hotel bed tax revenue, but emphasized Juneau’s economic future still looks good even without the races.
However, it comes as a letdown for would-be participants.
“It’s such a disappointment,” said Assembly member Carole Triem who had signed up to compete in the 2023 competition. ” I think the city really welcomed them and it was so cool — so to not have it anymore is really disappointing.”
Triem said she had received an email from the Ironman Group which offered her a free transfer to compete in one of nearly 25 other Ironman competitions or to receive a refund of the Ironman Alaska registration fee.
Perry said the Ironman Group has indicated the door is open for a possible future rendition of the Ironman Alaska in Juneau once the major inflationary period has passed, though nothing has been confirmed. She said hosting the event showed that Juneau has the capability to host major events, and she said she is interested in doing similar large-scale events but with different entities.
“It’s not now, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be no forever,” she said.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.