UPDATED: Kelowna loses out hosting Ironman to Whistler
Update: It's official. The World Triatlon Corporation has confirmed Whistler will host the 2013 Ironman Canada competion.
Citing its legacy of hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, the WTC said Whistler will offer athletes a "beautiful, challenging experience in a world-class venue" when the event is held there Aug. 25, 2013.
“Whistler is recognized worldwide as a sought-after travel and outdoor recreation destination. As the new host community of Ironman Canada, Whistler will immediately earn a reputation as a triathlon destination,” said Steve Meckfessel, managing director of global race operations for Tampa, Fla.-based WTC. “With its accessibility to major west coast markets, stunning beauty and tourism infrastructure, Whistler will resonate with our athletes, their families and fans of Ironman.”
Kelowna Mayor Walter Gay said he was disappointed Kelonwa's bid failed but praised the work of city staff, who he said quickly put together a very good proposal and volunteered their time to do it.
He said the group he lead to Tampa earlier this month to make the city's presentation was told it would cost more to stage the event here than in Whistler but they were impressed withthe city and its plan. Kelonwa, Whistler and Huntsville, Ont. made the final shortlist.
Gray said he felt the B.C. mountain resort community was likely the WTC's choice all along.
But he said the city planned to learn from its experience and is committed to the promotion of recreation and lifestyle events in future.
"What they will be, I can't say right now, but I'm sure there will be some," said Gray.
He added the city remains fully supportive of the annual Apple Triathlon and wants to see it succeed and grow.
Part of the city's bid for the Ironman event was to create an ongoing list of vounteers who could be depended on to help with large community events in future.
As for the economic loss associated with the Ironman event leaving the Okanagan, Gray said the city was more focused on the economic gain if it could be kept here.
When the city made its bid, Gray said it was important for the Valley not to lose such a large, major event because it brought many people not just to Penticton but to other parts of the valley as well, noting many flew to the area via the Kelowna airport.
Update: The announcement that Whistler has been chosen to host the 2013 Ironman Canada event appears to have come from Tourism Whistler's home page. But as of noon Thursday, the announcement had been removed from the Tourism Whistler site. The IronmanCanada.com webpage returned only a blank page Thursday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi, who said he was waiting for word about which community would be awarded the event, said from the begining he believed Whistler was the community to beat. Kelowna, Whistler and Huntsville, Ont. were the three communities in the running.
Mattiussi said the World Triathlon Corporation, which owns the race, wanted to make its decision during the Ironman championships in Kona, Hawaii this week as the clock was ticking on the time available to plan the 2013 Ironman Canada event. He said there is already a substantially shorter time window to organize next year's event than than there normally is.
The last Ironman Canada event held in Penticton took place at the start of September.
Kelowna's bid included support from West Kelowna, the Westbank First Nation, Lake Country and Vernon, and would have included a bike course that would have taken riders over the William R. Bennett Bridge to the Westside, as well as north to the Vernon area.
On Thursday, Tourism Whistler announced Whistler had been chosen over Kelowna and Huntsville to take over from Penticton as host of the 2013 triathlon.
In an announcement on the Ironman Canada website that linked to the Tourism Whistler website, Whistler's natural beauty is touted as the perfect setting for the race, with winding mountain roads, sparkling lakes and mountain views all part of the unique and challenging course.
"Summer is the perfect time to visit Whistler with events and outdoor activities for all ages. The pedestrian Village is alive day and night with plenty of places to dine, boutique shopping, a busy nightlife and opportunities to enjoy Whistler's unique arts and culture scene. Arrive early and stay late for a summer vacation to remember," said the website announcement.