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Ironman Canada brings ironclad business to Whistler

RMOW, Whistler Chamber, Tourism Whistler and Ironman's race director explain opportunities



There will be plenty of sweat shed during the gruelling Subaru Ironman Canada race, which comes to Whistler, the Callaghan Valley and Pemberton on August 25.

But a fair amount of cash will also be spent and Whistler businesses have an opportunity to benefit. There are 2,600 competitors, plus families and supporters that could easily triple that number. As well, up to 3,000 volunteers are coming in for the day and likely for several days before and after.

Around 30 business owners attended the first of two sessions presented by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), and Tourism Whistler on Tuesday, June 10, at the Rainbow Theatre in the Whistler Conference Centre to learn more about the opportunity the event is likely to provide. At third session, for businesses in Pemberton, took place on June 11.

Ironman Canada expects to generate up to $15 million in economic benefits for the region over the next five years, explained Barrett Fisher, president and CEO of Tourism Whistler, with up to 18,750 room nights in total booked by visitors around the race date.

The RMOW's chief administrative office, Mike Furey, outlined plans for the Village Expo. He said the Whistler partners wanted to bring Ironman Canada to the resort as part of the continued move towards ensuring Whistler's future as a four-season resort.

"(Part of this) is trying to find opportunities for businesses and retailers like yourselves to seize the potential of these events and makes sure it's as profitable a proposition as it can be," Furey told the participants, adding that Ironman visitors look set to generate over $ 3 million in 2013 and $5.5 million from 2014 to 2017, when the event moves to July in those years.

He said the Ironman Expo will be a market set up in Whistler Olympic Plaza from August 22 to 26 with 50 vendors, while the Village Stroll Business Showcase will have creative window displays and outdoor merchandise exhibition similar to the Turkey Sale and the May long weekend sidewalk sales. These will be opportunities for local businesses to provide supplies and equipment to competitors, as well as retail items and information on services and activities.

"A big part of the activity is the family and friends that come along, too. I think it's three to five people that come with each competitor," Furey said.

"It's expected at Ironman that there will be an Expo put on and a lot of the athletes anticipate that and sometimes prepare with that in mind, in terms of getting any last-minute needs in terms of bike gear or a wetsuit."

He said Whistler bike companies would be supplying services, and that local companies already signed up to the Expo included Scandinave Spa and Harbour Air.

"I can anticipate a really busy week," Furey said.

Chamber president Fiona Famulak compared the opportunity to the 2010 Winter Olympics. "We've been here before and we've done this before.... Think of how the business community rallied together... It's like preparing for the Games again, but on a smaller scale," she said.

She recommended that businesses promote to volunteers by showcasing themselves at volunteer training events and the wrap-up party, and to give takeaways in the volunteer training packages.