Ironman Texas coming to The Woodlands in 2011
by Jon Walk, RTN correspondent
After a presentation by The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau's Nick Wolda at Thursday's Board of Directors Workshop for The Woodlands Township, all that remains for the Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas to become reality - after an additional presentation by Ironman's creator, the World Triathlon Corporation - next May is an affirmative vote at next Wednesday's Board of Directors Meeting.
"The ultimate brand in the triathlon world internationally wants to call The Woodlands home for a brand new Texas event," Wolda told the nine-member Board yesterday.
The 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run competition, which will be one of 23 qualifiers to the World Championships, held annually each October in Kona, Hawaii, is proposed to take place on Saturday, May 21, 2011.
Assistant General Manager for Community Services John Powers said that competitors would complete their swim in Lake Woodlands, entering at Northshore Park and exiting at Town Green Park.
The bike route, which will be presented by the World Triathlon Corporation at Wednesday's Board Meeting, has been studied by various governmental agencies, including county officials in Montgomery and Grimes counties as well as the cities of Magnolia and Montgomery.
The run course would be within The Woodlands and the finish area is expected to be, Powers said, somewhere in Town Center.
Approximately 2,500 competitors from all 50 states and approximately 25 countries are expected to compete here.
"They (World Triathlon Corporation) anticipate that the direct economic impact would be in the neighborhood of $16 million," Wolda explained.
Since World Triathlon Corporation will produce the event, unlike the Parks and Recreation-managed CB&I Sprint Triathlon each May, The Woodlands Township would be a sponsor to the event and responsible for $30,000 annually over a five-year agreement.
Monies that the Township would expect to recoup from retail sales and hotel occupancy tax dollars that would be generated by an estimated 10,000 hotel nights during Ironman weekend.
Additionally, Wolda explained that The Woodlands would benefit from what it calculated to be 1.5 million advertising impressions, but more importantly a $100,000 donation from the Ironman Foundation to local not-for-profit charities.
“The volunteer groups would be the beneficiaries for providing man hours and services to Ironman to help produce this event,” said Wolda. “Those charities will have to earn that by their participation.”
Just before Wolda’s presentation began, Chairman Bruce Tough, buoyed by local three-time Ironman TJ Fry’s statement during the Public Comment period of the meeting, called it “exciting news”.
Fry, who competed at the World Championships in Kona in 2006, stated that Ironman’s effect is impressive.
“I’ve seen first hand what the Ironman brand can do for a city and a state,” he said. “It is very exciting. Some of these races sell out in 90 minutes or less.
“(The Woodlands) will become a destination event that will add revenue year-round.”
Director Nelda Blair stated that initially there had been a “lot of skepticism” in bringing the event to The Woodlands.
“There has been a very thorough negotiation of the contract,” she said. “The group that has looked at it is very excited about what it can bring as far as notoriety and money directly to our bottom line.”
The Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, which has made a resurgence of late in its sponsorship of local running and multisports events including April’s Ironman 70.3 in Galveston, is poised to be even more involved in the local community.
"Memorial Hermann The Woodlands, along with the entire Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, are excited about the opportunity to partner with Ironman. While it's not official yet, we will have more information to share later next week," said Steve Sanders, CEO, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands.
A four-time Ironman and two-time Kona World Championship participant himself in 1998 and 1999, Chief Operating Officer Josh Urban and Director of Marketing Linda Nelson of Memorial Hermann The Woodlands were in attendance at today's Workshop.
Thirty-one triathletes from Montgomery County completed Ironmans across North America in 2009