Resident Ironman participants debrief at Juneau Chamber
Left to right: Liz Perry, Travel Juneau, Sierra Gadaire, SEARHC, Jamie Bursell, High Cadence Triathlon Team, Jeff Rogers, CBJ Chief Financial Officer.
Juneau, Alaska (KINY) — Travel Juneau’s executive director and Ironman Alaska attendees spoke at the Juneau Chamber on Thursday for an after-action forum about the event’s first year in the capital.
About 1,000 athletes came to Juneau, and of the 1,500 volunteer positions needed for the triathlon, 90% were filled by residents. That’s according to Travel Juneau’s executive director, Liz Perry. She said they are debriefing soon with Ironman on logistical considerations.
“Talking about accommodation, talking about air travel, and talking about all these logistical elements that we need to have in play and have these things smoothed out for the next round, for 2023. We have a three-year contract. So , the date has already been set for 2023, August 6 for race day.”
Ironman’s operational materials, such as food, utility vehicles, rentals, signage for DOT, were sourced from local and regional suppliers. According to Perry, it was 85-90% of their purchases.
Three Juneauites who participated in the race gave their own stories of how the race went and what they heard from the athletes.
SEARHC program director Sierra Gadaire said he helped inform the medical community that Ironman was looking for volunteers. She said medical staff, like nurses, were flying in from Haines and Sitka to volunteer for the event.
“We’ve started helping another part of their team coordinate medical volunteers in the community. So it’s really fascinating to me, Ironman, only send one medical staff member to each event,” said Gadaire.
Additionally, Gadaire said the organization was the main sponsor of the Ironkids event held the day before the race. 360 children participated.
Jamie Bursell, lead coach for the high-pace triathlon team, said the “Ironman Alaska” Facebook group was a big help for those coming from out of town for the event.
“Athletes who have come here have also had an incredible response from the community even before they come because we had this Ironman Alaska Facebook page that got a lot of interest,” she explained. “A lot of athletes were already there watching and asking ‘what’s the temperature of the lake?’ Or what should I wear? ‘What should I wear in this lake?’ And you know, ‘am I going to freeze?’ And ‘where should I stay?'”
Bursell said people on the Facebook page offered help with housing, cars, rides, gear and bikes. His takeaways were to keep the excitement going for the event and look past the 3-year timeline.
“We have a three-year contract. Correct? So, but why not think beyond that? Ironman doesn’t just leave after three years. So when they have an event in a city, what they do is is that they look and see how successful it has been. Was the community receptive? Was the community supportive of the event? And did the events sell out?” she says. “If we keep that kind of momentum going with Ironman, they’re definitely going to look at making it last longer. There are many cities around the world where events have been going on for a long time, like in Topo, New Zealand I think it’s been going on for more than 20 years.”
Another runner from Juneau was Jeff Rogers. He is also financial director of the city and the borough of Juneau. He said in a month they will know more about the economic value of the event, but estimated $7-8 million in local business associated with out-of-town attendees.
“$8 million would be $400,000 for sales tax. So that’s both an indication of the economic impact and the impact on CBJ’s coffers. And then an additional amount that will come back to us specifically in the hotel bed tax, that could be a big I think could cost up to $70-100,000, probably just from a week,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he was surprised by the number of out-of-town attendees staying longer than the day of the event. He thinks the vast majority of them stayed a week or more. According to Perry, some attendees were also traveling to Anchorage and Ketchikan after the event.
When it comes to future races, Perry said Juneau’s biggest risk is the rental price.
“Our biggest risk is inflated hotel prices and inflated Airbnb prices. If we can’t accommodate people, so they don’t feel like they’re being ripped off, they won’t come. And when those check-in numbers go down, Ironman is going to get out of here,” she said. “That’s my only caveat to Juneau is that we have to, if possible, if you have a hotel friend or you’ve gotten your Airbnbs – the idea here is that you don’t do everything your mortgage payment for per year, for the 10 days that an Ironman participant is going to be in town Okay? That’s just not the case, you know, and we’ve seen some really, really weird.
60 Juneau triathletes signed up to complete the 140.6-mile race. Undertake – successively – a 2.4 mile swim, a 180 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run.
Ironman Alaska is considered a qualifying race for the world championships. It was offering 45 spots to compete in the Ironman race in Kona, Hawaii on October 6-8.