Aukeman Triathlon supporters and volunteers cheer on a swimmer as they leave Auke Lake on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Juneau is being considered to host a three-year series of Ironman triathlons, the first of which wold be held next August. (Nolin Ainsworth/Juneau Empire File)

Juneau is in the running to host an Ironman triathlon

Running, biking and swimming to the finish line

If you’ve ever thought about competing in an Ironman, lace up your training shoes — an Ironman may be coming to the City and Borough of Juneau.

Juneau is in the running to host a three-year series of Ironman triathlons beginning in August of 2022, according to a memo written by George Schaaf, CBJ Parks and Recreation director, and shared with CBJ Assembly members this week. If Juneau is selected as a race location, it will be Alaska’s first Ironman-branded event.

According to the memo, these events could bring up to 1,500 athletes to town along with friends and family members who support them.

Travel Juneau, who has been working with event organizers, estimates that the race could generate $7-$9 million of economic activity in the community along with $35,000 in hotel bed tax revenue.

“This would be an economic boon for the community,” said Assembly member Wade Bryson as the assembly heard more about the prospect from Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove at a recent assembly meeting .“What can we do to make us a more desirable place for the event?”

According to Cosgrove, the potential dates in early August work well with school and university calendars. She said the proposed race course extends from the Mendenhall Valley to Point Bridget and avoids the downtown, which is generally full of cruise ship passengers during that time of year.

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Why Juneau?

“The conversations have been going on since late last year,” said Kara Tetley, destination marketing manager at Travel Juneau. During a phone interview this week, she said that hosting the event could help cement Juneau’s branding as a destination for outside training.

Tetley said conversations with the Ironman group got started after a member of the Ironman’s planning team visited Juneau on a cruise and thought it was a beautiful place.

She said the competition for host cities is global and that news of a final decision about the race’s location should be available soon.

According to the memo, there are 45 Ironman races each year in a variety of locations, including Chattanooga, Tennessee; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Maple Valley, Washington.

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CBJ’s role

While the city stands to benefit from race participants visiting, organizers ask host cities to contribute to race expenses.

“While the event is largely self-supported, the organizers require the host community to make a significant commitment of funding and in-kind support, including a race fee,” reads Schaaf’s memo.

Travel Juneau has negotiated a reduced race fee of $100,000 a year, assuming a three-year commitment. In addition, the Ironman group has asked CBJ to waive fees for the use of city lands and facilities and commercial use permit fees, Schaaf wrote in the memo.

According to the memo, the Ironman group provides all race staff, organizes community volunteers and manages logistics. Those logistics include traffic control, security, first aid, sanitation, and waste disposal. Local governments are not obligated to provide public safety personnel beyond emergency rescue service. Similarly, public works are not expected to provide services outside of normal operations.

About the Ironman

According to the company’s website, the Ironman group is the largest operator of mass participation sports globally, with more than a million participants each year. The site says the first Ironman took place on the Hawaiin island of Oahu in 1978 when 15 participants combined the island’s three most grueling races into a single athletic event.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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