Year of the Ironman ends with 2017 Little Debbie Ironman Chattanooga [photos]

Year of the Ironman ends with 2017 Little Debbie Ironman Chattanooga [photos]

September 25th, 2017 by Mark Pace in Local Regional News

The last of the swimmers arrive at Ross's Landing on the Tennessee River Sunday morning in Chattanooga during the first leg of the 2017 Little Debbie Ironman event.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Year of the Ironman ends with 2017 Little Debbie Ironman Chattanooga [photos]

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Chattanooga's Year of the Ironman ended as it began, with the Little Debbie Ironman Chattanooga.

The race was the inaugural Ironman event in Chattanooga when it came in 2014, but the city quickly grew as a race destination, adding Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga in 2015 and the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

It was only fitting that the event closed out the biggest year for any Ironman city in history.

"This is the biggest year any community has had [regarding Ironman]. It's been amazing," Chattanooga Sports Committee President Tim Morgan said. "I hate to say it because it's a cliche that's used way too much, but it's like we're like a well-oiled machine."

Chattanooga is now the only city to host four Ironman events in a single year and set a record for the biggest Ironman 70.3 event with the world championships earlier this month.

For Ironman, Chattanooga is a dream city, Ironman Regional Director Audra Tassone said.

"We knew that this was a market where we wanted to be," she said. "Chattanooga is amazing and just incredibly supportive and welcoming."

The city's contract with the ultra-distance race ends next year. Morgan said he and other city officials will be communicating with the public to see if it's something community members want to continue.

"We're working through those details now," Morgan said. "We'll see what the future holds, but it has to work for the community. It has to work for our governmental partners. It has to work for our corporate partners. It has to be what our community wants and not just what one entity wants."

Morgan and the Chattanooga Sports Committee will look hard at the event and others to see what the future holds for athletic events in Chattanooga. That could include Ironman, but it could also mean more events.

The city already hosts large events annually. One of the country's largest rowing regattas — Head of the Hooch — is held each November in the Tennessee River along Chattanooga's riverfront, and the 7 Bridges and Chattanooga marathons bring thousands to the city. National mountain biking, rafting and rock climbing events are held in the area, in addition to the area's history of hosting the U.S. Cycling National Championships, the Tour de Georgia and part of the Olympics.

Chattanooga continues to prove itself as a growing outdoor destination, and city leaders believe the success of the world championships could lead to future opportunities.

"All of these successful events we host are ultimately sales tools for us to show other national governing bodies and event rights owners what our capabilities are," Morgan said.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at Chattanooga OutdoorsTFP.