Lake Lure to partner for Ironman bid

Mar. 21, 2013 @ 07:39 AM

Last week, the Town of Lake Lure announced it was invited to bid on a Southeastern U.S. location for the storied Ironman© Triathlon.

On Wednesday, during the regular meeting of the Rutherford County Economic Development Commission (EDC), Lake Lure Mayor Bob Keith said that the town will have to partner with another community to help with its bid.

“We have the venue to hold the event but we don’t have a conference center to house things like the awards ceremony and banquets,” Keith said.

Keith said that Lake Lure will partner with the Asheville-Buncombe Regional Sports Commission to help secure complete accommodations for its bid to the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) for the Ironman event.

“We were approached by Ironman© recently about the same opportunity,” said Ben VanCamp, director of the Asheville-Buncombe Regional Sports Commission. “We don’t have a body of water in Buncombe County to host this kind of an event.

“For us to look at this event, we needed to look at a partnership with somewhere like Lake Lure.”

The Ironman© Triathlon is an endurance race — combining swimming, biking and running — that has 100 events held over six continents, according to the request for proposal.

According to the request for proposal, the Ironman© event brings in 2,500 athletes in addition to “thousands of spectators” to each of its 12 events. Beginning in 2014, the WTC will begin holding an event in the southeastern United States and 83 communities in the region received an request for proposal, according to Lake Lure Manager Chris Braund.

“It would be great exposure for us,” Keith said.

See Triathlon/Page A10

EDC Director Matt Blackwell said, if awarded the event, it would be a five-year commitment for Lake Lure and its partners.

“This would be one big commitment for our area,” Blackwell said.

While the request for proposal suggests that the economic impact of hosting an Ironman© event can be as much as $15 million, there has been no price tag figured for what it will cost to provide facilities, public works and road services, medical services, waste management, a recycling program for the event and municipal services.

“We are working on that and, eventually, we will need that to make a proposal,” Braund said. “We are just working through our strategies and come up with a cost for that, but we haven’t gotten any specifics.”

Keith said that the economic impact can go beyond hotel rooms and dining.

“The economic return would not necessarily be tax revenues but other opportunities as well,” Keith said.

He said those opportunities included Ironman© athletes coming to Lake Lure in the off-season to practice and housing opportunities.

Keith told the EDC Board that there will be a financial commitment needed and, due to the partnership with Buncombe County, the cost burden will not completely fall on Lake Lure or Rutherford County.

“We know we need a pot of money and we will get some from Buncombe County with the partnership,” Keith said.

He said that Lake Lure staff have already started the groundwork on the proposal. Keith added that there are multiple course proposals on the table including holding the entire event at Lake Lure while housing convention activities in Asheville while the another proposal is to start the swimming and biking portion of the event at Lake Lure with the running ending in Buncombe County.

North Carolina is not new to the WTC. Raleigh will host its first 70.3-mile Ironman in June.

“This has a lot of potential for the county,” said EDC Board Chairman Terry Hines.