POLL: Have you attended an Ironman event?
One of the world's most successful Ironman cities will continue hosting the event thanks to a new contract announced by city and race officials at a joint press conference ahead of this weekend's race.
The original agreement between Chattanooga and the event is set to expire at the end of this year. The new deal ensures that both the Ironman race in September and the Ironman 70.3 in May will continue annually until at least 2023.
"Ironman expands our growing economy by bringing visitors who want to spend money in our hotels and restaurants," Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said. "It also gives our residents a chance to participate as racers or as volunteers, as we build our brand as a city. We are proud of this partnership and looking forward to its continuation."
The initial agreement first brought the grueling triathlon and its thousands of competitors to Chattanooga in 2014.
Chattanooga has since hosted eight Ironman events, including the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championships, and is annually recognized by participants as one of the best host cities in the world. It was the first city to host four Ironman events in one year, has seen the closest finish in the history of the race, holds the record for most volunteers at one event and has become a race some officials use as the gold standard when preparing other cities to host the event.
"For us, we're excited about finishing this deal because this has become a cornerstone event on our calendar," Ironman Senior Regional Director Keats McGonigal said. "Ironman athletes have embraced Chattanooga as an endurance city."
The contract has been agreed to and signed by both sides, but the details will not be released, according to Chattanooga Sports Committee President Tim Morgan and McGonigal. The city would be in a breach of contract if it were to share the contents of the agreement and financial details, they said.
Officials estimate the economic impact for the race at $80 million over the five-year contract. They believe the event has already had an impact of more than $100 million in the city.
"Obviously, that holds value in itself," Morgan said.
However, Morgan and other city officials see even further benefits. The experience of hosting a high profile event with thousands of participants has strengthened the sports committee team, Morgan said. They have been showcasing the city's ability to host Ironman to other sporting event officials to lure them to Chattanooga.
"What it has done, is it has opened up a lot of people's eyes," he said. "There are competitive cities looking at us as a threat. They should be afraid because we're not going to stop. We're going to keep pushing and making events happen that make sense for our city."
The race course is expected to remain the same under the new agreement. There were some talks about cutting Georgia from the race and keeping it entirely in Tennessee, but as of now, that has not happened. Ironman could still change the route in the future.
"We don't know yet, but there's no anticipated course changes at this time," McGonigal said.