CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — The economic impact of hosting the Ironman 70.3 World Championship on Sept. 18 will have benefits lasting throughout the year, not just for one weekend.
Marc Mortensen, assistant city manager for the city of St. George, has been on the ground floor with the city’s partnership with Ironman since it started 12 years ago.
“It’s a partnership we’re elated to have,” Mortensen said. “Since it began, we’ve brought in well over $100 million in direct economic impact to Washington County area businesses.”
The men’s and women’s races, which have been combined into one day on Sept. 18 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, are expected to generate between $12 million and $15 million in local economic impact.
Kevin Lewis, director of Greater Zion & Tourism Convention Office, talked about the evolution of Ironman and its impact on local economies.
“Ironman changed the fabric of our community when the first race was held here in 2010,” Lewis said. “Every year the reach and exposure goes further and further.”
He added that local communities benefit from an immediate economic boost from each event, but the overarching benefits to the brand and the dynamics of the local economy are incalculable.
Mortensen agreed that the economic impacts of the race are long lasting.
“The dollars don’t just flow on race week,” Mortensen said. “They flow throughout the year. Those racing in the age groups, especially, visit St. George two or three times per year to get to know the course and the hill climbs.”
Training groups and programs for racers extend through the calendar year, bringing repeat visitors to town.
It’s impossible to identify all the businesses that benefit from this yearly economic boost, but Mortensen named just a few: hotels, restaurants, retail shops, grocery stores, bike shops, athletic shops and spas are all very popular visits for the athletes.
“Basically any business that provides merchandise and nutrition for athletes,” Mortensen said. “There’s a pretty far-reaching economic and cultural impact.”
Another local segment of the economy that is greatly impacted by Ironman is the medical and health care industry.
“It’s hard to quantify the importance of medical support for an event like this, but one of the critical factors in our ability to attract world championship level events is the competence and expertise of our medical, EMS and public safety professionals,” Lewis said.
Ironman’s partnership with Intermountain Healthcare provides world-class medical services that are a major draw for professionals in the World Championship. Intermountain Healthcare teams will be joined by medical professionals and public safety organizations to contribute to the care of the pro field and all triathletes on race day.
“Their commitment and dedication of their medical professionals is essential to the quality of life we enjoy and the types of experiences we are able to host,” Lewis said.
The Ironman 70.3 World Championship will be unique, and that means the economic benefits may be even greater than usual.
“It will be the largest pro field that Ironman has ever had in an event,” Mortensen said, noting that some 140 or 150 professional male and female triathletes will be in St. George. “The best of the best will be duking it out on our racecourse.”
Written by E. GEORGE GOOLD for St. George News.
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