Mayor makes case for Kelowna Ironman directly to race officials

Walter Gray travelled to Tampa, Florida earlier this week to head the delegation that presented Kelowna's bid for Ironman Canada.

Kelowna officials made their case for the city to become the new host of Ironman Canada directly to the World Triathlon Corporation in Tampa, Florida earlier this week.

Instead of of going to the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria, Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray lead a four-person delegation to make the city’s pitch for the international triathlon event in his city starting next year.

“We made the presentation, so now we just have to wait,” said Gray on Wednesday.

The WTC, which owns the event that called Penticton home for 30 years, is expected to make its decision about where it will go next on Oct. 10.

Earlier this month, Gray announced that Kelowna would make a bid for the Ironman Canada event, one of only two Ironman events held in this country.

At the time, he said that any bid would not be made at the expense of the existing Apple Triathlon, which has been held here for 32 years.

And Gray reiterated that the city wants to not only keep the Apple Triathlon but also to help strengthen it.

Traditionally, the Apple goes on the weekend before the Ironman, at the start of September.

Gray said part of the presentation in Tampa included an aerial photograph of downtown Kelowna showing City Park, where the Ironman would be centred. It would serve as the starting point for the race and the transition area between the swim, bike and run portions.

The swim would be in Okanagan Lake off City Park and the bike route would take riders over the Bennett Bridge to the Westside, as well as back into the city, down into the Mission and then as far north as Predator Ridge, near Vernon, and back.

Gray said unlike the challenging hill climbs riders used to face in the south Okanagan, on a course where there were few spectators, the bike course here would not only offer spectacular scenery but also more opportunities for the public to watch.

When the city announced it would make a bid for the Ironman, officials at City Hall said two of the biggest challenges would be the bike course and getting enough volunteers.

Part of the city’s strategy is to build on what it calls its “existing active living infrastructure  and culture” by creating a multi-sport centre of excellence and a volunteer recruitment and retention strategy that will benefit all future events in the city that require volunteers.

As part of its preparation for the bid, the city conducted a survey. It showed strong support for Kelowna bidding for the Ironman Canada event.

Other cities believed to be considering a bid include Vernon, Victoria, Whistler, Kamloops and Calgary.

Gray said he felt it was important to keep the race in the Okanagan because of the amount of people it brings to town.

“We know because we see them arrive at our airport every year,” he said.









Kelowna Capital News