published Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Chattanooga lands 5-year contract to host Ironman; estimated $40 million impact


This story is featured in today's TimesFreePress newscast.

The Chattanooga Sports Committee has landed a five-year contract to host Ironman competitions that could result in an economic impact of $40 million to the community.

Ironman competitions include a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. The first of the five Ironman competitions will be held Sept., 28, 2014.

“It’s a perfect fit for both of us. We’re as excited as we can be with this announcement of a long-term partnership with a community,” Steve Meckfessel, the managing director for Ironman’s global operations, said this morning. “We do races all over the world, and we’re operating in over 20 countries and are in markets such as Melbourne, Australia, and Frankfurt, Germany. We’re in markets like Lake Placid, which has great Olympic legacy, and now Chattanooga.

“It’s a fantastic day, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the way the community has reached out to us and organized themselves.”

The annual $8 million economic impact would make the Ironman the most profitable sporting event for Chattanooga since the formation of the Sports Committee in 1992. Sports Committee president Tim Morgan said that figure assumes there will be 2,500 participants, which he added “could be conservative” considering 2,750 competed at an Ironman in May at The Woodlands, Texas, which is a half hour north of Houston.

“We have a very affluent demographic that likes to come in for three or four or five nights at a time,” Meckfessel said. “They bring family and friends, and what is not reported in that number is that athletes who live within that four- or five-hour drive will come in throughout the summer and spend a weekend biking and running on the routes to get familiar with the course and the community.

“For our athletes, this is a lifetime achievement and a goal they focus on many, many months, if not several years, to get their bodies in shape.”

The 2.4-mile swim opens the competition, and it will start at Kenco off Riverside Drive. The participants will navigate the Tennessee River to Ross’s Landing, which Morgan said will be the “general transition area and general hub of activity.”

Once at Ross’s Landing, the competitors will conduct their 112-mile bike race that might include Raccoon Mountain but not Lookout or Signal.

“The bike course will look like a giant lollipop,” Morgan said. “They will ride out from Ross’s Landing to a loop that will be conducted twice before riding back to town and the transitional area.”

The 26.2-mile run will consist of two 13.1-mile loops.

“We will work with Ironman to make this a wonderful experience for all of the athletes as well as the Ironman organization itself,” Morgan said. “After we define that success, it will showcase that our community is prepped and ready to host major sporting events again.”

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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