Swimmers head into the water at the 2017 Challenge Penticton, which was held in July to accomodate the Multisport World Championships in August. Steve Kidd/Western News

Changing course from Challenge Family brand

Organizer cancels contract with Challenge Penticton

The future of triathlon racing in Penticton doesn’t include the Challenge brand.

“My concern is that we are never going to be set up for success as long as we stay with Challenge Penticton,” said Michael Brown, who bought the race licence from the City of Penticton in 2014.

In the case of the Challenge Family, their growth has not been what was expected. In 2013, Challenge Penticton was the first race in North America under the Challenge Family brand, which dominates the European market. It was followed by two 70.3 races in 2014.

“It was expected Challenge would grow the brand more extensively and we would be part of a more robust series,” Brown told council, adding that Penticton is now the only Challenge Family race in North America again.

They have not seen the growth they hoped for in North America, Brown said.

“The intent of my being here is to sever my current license agreement with Challenge Family in Germany,” said Brown.

Brown presented figures showing how the landscape of long-distance triathlon is changing: participation is down by 20 per cent, but the number of available events is up by 40 per cent.

“The millennial market is not engaged with long course racing,” said Brown, noting that Ironman Canada added a half-distance race and relays to adapt to the industry trend in Whistler.

“They need to do that to survive,” said Brown.

While he has cancelled his agreement with the Challenge Family, Brown said his agreement with the City of Penticton is unchanged, including the two final $60,000 payments to the city.

Instead, inspired by the success of the ITU Multisport World Championships last month, Brown would like to replace Challenge Penticton by establishing a more diverse race that appeals to a wider participant base, with more races and a lower barrier to entry.

“My commitment has not wavered from the City of Penticton. I believe this is one of the greatest destinations in the world to host triathlons and endurance events, ” said Brown, adding that he still believes Penticton is a desirable location for a major race event.

Brown also acknowledged some of the traffic problems during the Multisport Championships and explained that would be part of the planning for a new race, desiring to create something that has less of a footprint and less of an effect on the community but brings the same amount of money.

The city is looking for some assurances from Brown to protect the community from liability, which Brown said will be forthcoming.

“He has already provided us with evidence of the termination of the agreement with Challenge Family,” said Jim Bauer, chief financial officer.

He recommended that once all the assurances have been received, that council go ahead with updating the agreement.