The art of sport: Iconic Ironman M-Dot memorialized in sculpture; city set to host 2 races in 2021

ST. GEORGE — The roundabout at Tabernacle and Main Street received a new art installment Saturday, one that pays tribute to the spirit of sport, the optimism of art and the legacy of the Ironman triathlon competition in Southern Utah.

A new sculpture installed at the roundabout on Tabernacle and Main Street pays homage to Ironman triathlon athletes as well as Southern Utah, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2021 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

The four-sided, three-dimensional Ironman M-Dot sculpture showcases on three sides, the three triathlon disciplines – swim, bike, run – and on the fourth side it pays homage to the community that has hosted an Ironman or Ironman 70.3 event for over ten years.

“The community here has embraced Ironman on a level that is hard to understand and it feels so good,” Senior Vice President of World Championship Events Diana Bertsch said at a small celebration ceremony Monday.

Part of the annual Art Around the Corner event, the sculpture joins over 30 original art pieces being installed in St. George this month. It was designed and built by father and son artists, Richard and Josh Prazen respectively, whose vision, Kevin Lewis, director of the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office, said, captures the movement and energy of the triathlon perfectly.

Lewis said that as he was driving toward the sculpture Monday morning, he felt the same energy, emotion and excitement that he does on race days. For Richard Prazen, creating a sculpture of this magnitude, particularly with his son, was very exciting.

L-R: Diana Bertsch, Senior Vice President of World Championship Events and Kevin Lewis, Director of the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism office, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2021 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

“I’ve got to tell you what an honor it is to be able to do something monumental like this, to be a tribute to the athletes that train and go to great extent to do this triathlon,” Prazen said. “It’s totally amazing to me.”

The M-dot installment is approximately 14 feet tall and 9 feet wide. It is estimated to weigh 6,000 pounds.

The sculpture was jointly commissioned by the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office and the city of St. George. It was specifically designed to “further the Ironman legacy and pay tribute to St. George as an established Ironman destination,” according to a fact sheet about the sculpture.

Southern Utah’s Ironman legacy spans over a decade, bringing in thousands of athletes from across the country and around the world to compete with the best on what has arguably been called one of the more challenging and scenic courses in the Ironman franchise.

Since starting in Southern Utah, Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events have had a direct economic impact on Washington County of nearly $100 million.

This year, the city and county will host two Ironman 70.3 events, the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship in May and the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in September.

“It’s such an exciting time to get back to racing and to hear the excitement around the world about coming to St. George,” Bertsch, said.

Bertsch, who will oversee the Ironman 70.3 World Championship when it comes to St. George in September, was in Southern Utah with other Ironman executives as part of a planning and site visit, she said.

“To happen to have our site visit and our planning event during a time this art was going to be put in place at ground zero is so incredible for us,” Bertsch said. “We feel the passion and the excitement all the time, but to actually see something such as this monument, which is so significant, it really is symbolic of how much Ironman means to this community and we couldn’t be happier.”

L-R: Art Around the Corner’s Marianne Hamilton and sculpture artist Richard Prazen pose for a photo in front of the new Ironman sculpture, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2021 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

It is anticipated that the September event will have about 7,000 athletes representing 110 countries. The direct economic impact of the world championship race will be roughly $25 million.

The two Southern Utah races are coming on the heels of many cancellations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the 2020 Ironman 70.3 World Championships, which would have been held in Taupo, New Zealand.

For Lewis, he said, it feels as if the community is uniquely qualified to host the first Ironman 70.3 World Championships after the pandemic because of its strength and optimism.

“We’re a community that’s been through tough things before, we know how to get through it, and we have this attitude of optimism and can-do and everyone pulls together,” Lewis said. “Ironman’s mantra is ‘everything is possible,’ well that just fits perfectly into what this community is all about.”

For many in attendance Monday, including Lewis and Marc Mortensen, city of St. George director of support services, the art piece creates a strong synergy between the creativity and optimism of art and the challenge and competition of sport. It is a synergy, they both said, that represents the community as a whole.

“The two most descript words for St. George are activity and optimism,” Mortensen said, adding that the M-dot sculpture speaks to both aspects of what makes the community so great.

“We’re all about sport and we’re all about art, and I think this piece speaks really well to what we’re all about in this community,” he said.

The sculpture will remain on display in the roundabout throughout the year, after which it will be moved to a permanent location within the city in order to preserve the Ironman legacy and what it means to Southern Utah.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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