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Full Ironman may replace next year's half

Staff Writer | June 21, 2022 1:09 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — The full Ironman triathlon may be returning to Coeur d'Alene sooner than expected.

The City Council will consider an amendment tonight to the Host Venue Agreement between the World Triathlon Corporation, the North Idaho Sports Commission, and the city.

The move would change next year's scheduled half-Ironman Coeur d'Alene, 70.3, to a 140.6-mile race, a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.

It's also the final year of a three-year contract between the entities. Under a new contract still to be worked out, the proposal would be to alternate a half and full Ironman every year.

Britt Bachtel-Browning, president of the NISC, said Ironman officials approached them with the proposal to replace the half with the full in 2023.

"There's a ton of pent-up demand for races," she said in reference to the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and canceled competitions.

The proposed amendment is supported by the Coeur d'Alene Downtown Association and the Chamber of Commerce.

Bachtel-Browning said she supports the move. It would not cost the city any more money — about $36,000 for 2023 Ironman — and is expected to generate more revenue.

She said the University of Idaho is doing an economic impact study of both the half and full Ironman events.

One study of the economic impact of last year's Ironman 70.3 in Salem, Ore., found it had an economic impact of $10 million.

This Sunday's Ironman 70.3 Coeur d'Alene will have about 3,000 registered athletes. Last year's full Ironman had about the same.

Each triathlete earns on average about $250,000 annually, and will be joined by family and friends for about four days in the Coeur d'Alene area, another study found.

Athletes in the full Ironman tend to stay in host cities longer and spend more money.

Bachtel-Browning said Ironman CDA generally gets all the volunteers needed, which is about 3,000 for the full triathlon.

While participation declined in some past Ironman Coeur d'Alene events, the demand for what is considered one of the planet's toughest races has returned.

"Coeur d’Alene is considered one of the most desirable locations for the Ironman events," according to a city staff report. "As a result, the World Triathlon Corporation believes that a full triathlon in 2023, in place of the half triathlon, would be very successful and welcomed by participants and spectators alike."

The course will remain the same, but will be run twice. The duration of the event will be "correspondingly greater."

Ironman started in Coeur d'Alene in 2003 and it was a huge hit with athletes, spectators and volunteers. A half-Ironman, Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’Alene, was added in 2016, and held again in 2017, along with the full Ironman race.

But that year, the city, the Coeur d'Alene Regional Chamber of Commerce and Ironman ended the contract for the full Ironman, blamed primarily on declining participation of both athletes and volunteers.

“This town at the time couldn’t support two races in a year,” Bachtel-Browning told The Press in a previous interview.

In 2018 and 2019, only the half was held. It was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus.

According to the city report "participants and spectators have brought a financial benefit to the businesses and citizens of the city."