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Ironman 70.3 Boise triathlon in limbo after contract with city expires following Saturday’s race

The Ironman 70.3 Boise starts at 10 a.m. at Lucky Peak Reservoir with its traditional 1.2-mile swim. But the eighth edition of the triathlon is the last contractually obligated to the City of Trees.

A five-year contract between the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau and the for-profit World Triathlon Corp. expires after Saturday’s race. Carrie Westergard, the executive director of the visitors bureau, said she’s heard plenty of rumors of the race not returning.

But she said she wants to see the race return and the visitors bureau and World Triathlon Corp. are negotiating a new contract.

“We’ve had several conversations,” Westergard said. “The last one was within a week. Of course there is the buzz around town that this is the last year because there isn’t a signed contract for the future. However, in talking to them, they feel this is a very viable and positive market for them.

“Without putting words in their mouth, I’ve been feeling very good about our conversations. We’ve talked about in the next two weeks we’ll be negotiating for the future.”

The current contract requires the visitors bureau to pay World Triathlon Corp. a $50,000 annual sponsorship fee. Ironman then runs the race with local contractors and volunteers.

Westergard said $50,000 is more than the visitors bureau pays any other event to come to town, including the Albertsons Boise Open golf tournament, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl college football game or the Treefort music festival.

“We’ll be negotiating that fee,” Westergard said. “I don’t know what it will be in the future.”

The Coeur d’Alene Area Chamber of Commerce pays $100,000 a year for its full-length Ironman race. It contemplated ending its contract early last winter, citing the cost. But it decided to finish its contract, which ends in 2017, after hearing strong business and community support.

“I believe the community loves this event as well,” Westergard said. “They do bring a lot of people to the area for the event. Also, it’s a big economic impact for the area with all the local vendors they use and services they use. They definitely give back to local nonprofits. It’s a positive impact.”

Representatives for the World Triathlon Corp. could not be reached by press time.

NO PRO DIVISION

For the first time in the Boise race’s history, there is not a division for professional Ironman athletes.

A couple professionals have entered the field, but an amateur will likely take the Boise crown.

With the growing Ironman circuit around the world, it has narrowed the number of races it awards prize money to, trying to boost payouts to aid athletes. Boise did not make that list.

The first Ironman 70.3 — which refers to the number of total miles in the event, half the number of a full Ironman — took place in 2005 in Longleat, England. A circuit of half Ironmans began in 2006 with 16 races. Boise joined in 2008 and since then, the number of half Ironmans has swelled to 85, including 27 in the United States.

The loaded calendar leaves Boise competing for athletes this weekend with triathlons in Boulder, Colo., Victoria, British Columbia, and Cambridge, Md.

Boise-based race director Mike Cooley said approximately 1,200 athletes have signed up for this year’s race, down from about 1,600 last year. But he called 1,200 a strong showing with two other races in the region.

CHANGES TO THE COURSE

Cooley has made several changes this year to alleviate the race’s impact on traffic.

First, the race will start at 10 a.m. instead of noon, allowing competitors to finish before dark. But more importantly to residents, the course will keep bicycles out of Downtown Boise.

Cyclists will ride from Lucky Peak Reservoir to Gowen Road to Hubbard Road south of the airport before turning around and ending the 56-mile trip at East Junior High.

From there, the 13.1-mile run winds along the Greenbelt and finishes in Julia Davis Park, where the race ends for the second straight year.

“This year, probably 80 percent of the people affected by Ironman last year won’t even know that Ironman is going on,” said Cooley, co-owner of George’s Cycles.

In previous years, organizers had to shut down or block off portions of major roads, including Boise Avenue, Federal Way and Capitol Boulevard, to protect cyclists. But previous complaints and construction in East Boise led to a new route.

“The landscape we’re dealt in Boise has been under construction now for about two years nonstop,” Cooley said. “Not only downtown, but east of town out in the Harris Ranch area, subdivisions are going in like crazy, which is great. But it totally affects the route because that’s how we navigate through the east end to bring the riders into downtown.”

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