The last IRONMAN triathlon event in St. George lasted two days, required thousands of volunteers and made travel difficult for motorists in southern Utah. But according to a new report on the event and its impact, it also gave a huge boost to the local economy.
The Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, which took place October 28-29, brought an estimated $62.1 million in direct economic impact to Washington County, according to a new report from Greater Zion Convention & Tourism. Office.
The report, which took athlete surveys and other data analysis, suggested the two-day race was one of the biggest events in the history of the St. George area, attracting athletes , supporters and fans for an extended period of time. They stayed in local hotels, ate at local restaurants and shopped at local stores, and many stayed for weeks before the race while they practiced.
This was the third IRONMAN marquee event St. George has hosted in just over a year, with Utah regularly hosting championship events after the coronavirus pandemic forced multiple race cancellations and delays. in 2020 and 2021. Combining this latest event with races held last fall and earlier this spring, local tourism officials have credited IRONMAN with bringing more than $121 million in outside money to the southwest. ‘Utah.
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“The triathlon world has been preparing for this for a long time,” said Kevin Lewis, director of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office. “After years of cancellations and adjustments, there was a lot of pent up passion and enthusiasm in the sport.”
The pandemic has also increased interest in outdoor sports like triathlons, and this year’s championship was the largest IRONMAN event in Utah’s history, attracting nearly 6,000 athletes. The event was split into two separate days, with the female athletes competing one day and the men the next, to accommodate everyone. Athletes hailed from all 50 states and 104 countries, with two-thirds coming from outside the United States
“With the removal of travel restrictions, we have been delighted to see national and international athletes respond with a level of enthusiasm that pays homage to our heritage and our brand,” Lewis said, touting the reputation of the south of Utah as the “Land of Endurance”.
The latest IRONMAN event generated more than 99,000 total room nights at area hotels, according to the report, with visitors staying an average of 5.5 nights.
St. George has hosted IRONMAN events every year since 2010, with most recent events consisting of the “half distance” variety, 70.3 miles. Athletes swim more than a mile through Sand Hollow Reservoir in Hurricane before cycling more than 56 miles through Washington, St. George and Ivins before heading into Snow Canyon State Park and along the Corridor of the State Route 18. They finish with a 13.1 mile run through St. George.
While the best athletes finish in less than four hours, many participants take most of the day to complete.
Over the years, Southern Utah has earned a reputation as a premier IRONMAN destination, with the famed triathlon brand paving the way for myriad other upcoming events in Washington County. The area now hosts dozens of bike races, rock climbing competitions, all-terrain vehicle contests and other events.
All help support a tourism industry that has grown across the state, and the fact that this year’s IRONMAN crowd had such an international flavor shows just how much new money these events are attracting, Lewis said.
“Research over the years shows that athletes from outside the region spend a significant amount of money when in Greater Zion and that money has a positive impact on every citizen who lives here,” Lewis said.
Visiting athletes need places to stay, eat, shop and go out for fun, so business owners see the benefits firsthand. But the impact goes beyond that, Lewis said, saying the money brought in by those visitors then flows through the community.
Additionally, revenue generated from visitor-based taxes, such as the tax on transient rooms charged at hotels, helps fund community projects such as bike paths, sports fields and parks, saving residents to have to pay so much for these amenities.
“We have a better quality of life all year round thanks to the money that visitors to Greater Zion spend during their stay,” he said.
David DeMille writes about southwestern Utah for The Spectrum & Daily News, a USA TODAY Network newsroom based in St. George. Follow him on @SpectrumDeMille or contact him at [email protected] To support and sustain this work, please register today.