Ironman flies into Kelowna

Kelowna could not have ordered up a better day for a site visit from the World Ironman Corporation.

Keith McGonigal, Ironman's northwest region race director, was in Kelowna Wednesday to see what the city had to offer.

"Mayor Gray ordered the best day possible," says City Manager, Ron Mattiussi.

"The Okanagan put its best face on considering the day before was probably the worst day in the last two months."

Kelowna is in the running to replace Penticton as the home to Ironman Canada, along with Whistler and Huntsville, Ont.

The two BC communities are new to Ironman while the Huntsville/Muskoga region already host a 70.3 race, a half Ironman in early September.

"We're optimistic because, when we made the decision to do this, we said, we're in it to win it, but let's do it right," says Mattiussi.

"If we win it, we would like people to say this was a great Ironman. This was a great place to have it."

Mattiussi says the city can't thank enough its neighbours to the north and south: Vernon, Lake Country, Westbank First Nation, and West Kelowna, who have all thrown their support behind Kelowna's bid.

Recreational and Cultural services director Jim Gabriel toured McGonigal around Kelowna Wednesday. Gabriel says the visit was all about the logistics of holding the event in Kelowna.

"Looking at where would you have the swim, where would you have the athlete's village, where would you have your run, what are some of the options within the bike route and the run route," says Gabriel.

"That was the focus."

While Gabriel says the city plan is to have the race and transition area centred around City Park, there are options available.

"City Park was our proposal, but Waterfront Park is also pretty attractive."

"We showed them City Park and how it could work, and now it is up to them to see if it fits and, if not, what else they would be looking for."

Gabriel says there are several options for the bike and run routes as well.

The final decision on courses for the swim, bike, and run portions are ultimately up to Ironman; however, Gabriel says those courses do need to work within the community.

"They are very conscious about community impact. For us, when you bring in an event like this, you host a marathon, the Apple Triathlon, they all have community impact," adds Gabriel.

"You try to understand what that is and you manage that the best you can."

Each race, whether it's in Penticton, Kelowna, Whistler, Hunstville or any other race brings with it a different experience, and Gabriel says Ironman organizers look at what makes sense for them.

He says Kelowna's edge is obvious.

"The sheer beauty of the Okanagan Valley—it's gorgeous. You look at some of the run routes and the bikes routes, you're seeking lakes, you're seeing orchards and all different types of things that make it a beautiful place to be."

A decision is expected sometime next week.

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