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Pemberton's appetite for Ironman unclear

Lawmakers hopeful for more information before taking position



Pemberton council said it needed more information before it can definitively tell the province if it supports the Ironman Canada triathlon's return to the valley in 2014.

In particular, village officials are eager to find out from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) how it will approach Highway 99 use when considering the Pemberton Music Festival and Ironman fall on consecutive weekends next year.

"What isn't clear to us is, if we go ahead and say, 'Yeah, sure, we support Ironman,' what are the ramifications of that in terms of the decision-making process for MOTI and the highway?" said chief administrative officer Daniel Sailland in a Committee of the Whole meeting held Tuesday, Oct. 15.

"By saying yes to Ironman, are we compromising in any way the festival? I think there are some discussions that need to be had with the RMOW and MOTI — two big decision makers that can impact the festival — to get some clarity and understand whether these are mutually exclusive or seen as a one-or-the-other type of impact on the corridor."

The Pemberton Music Festival is scheduled for July 18 to 20, but organizers had originally been looking at July 25 to 27 as their preferred dates, said Sailland. The festival had to be scheduled one week earlier to avoid conflict with Ironman, which will take place on July 27. Both Highway 99 and Pemberton Meadows Road were closed for several hours on race day this past summer, leading to some frustration being expressed by Pemberton residents and businesses.

"If it's either/or, I think it's pretty straightforward for me," said Mayor Jordan Sturdy, indicating his desire to view the festival as a top priority.

Sailland said he hasn't received an indication that the events taking place on back-to-back weekends could impact MOTI's plans. He also noted that a Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performance is scheduled in Whistler for the same weekend as the festival, which could be a factor in highway event planning as well.

The MOTI is seeking a response from the village on whether or not Pemberton has the appetite to host part of Ironman's cycling course in 2014, as it did this year. But council is awaiting info from more than just the ministry to help take a position.

Although the results of a community survey on road cycling events administered by the village and Area C are now compiled, lawmakers are still awaiting the findings of an economic impact assessment compiled by Ironman itself through athlete feedback. The final report from Ironman is expected to detail the visitation and spending habits of event participants before, during and after the 2013 event. The athlete survey was put together this year with direct involvement from Tourism Whistler and the Village of Pemberton.

Based on the findings of the survey produced by the two local government agencies, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they support the return of Ironman to Pemberton through 2017.

Coun. Al LeBlanc said he had encouraged the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce to survey its members to gain a better understanding of the impacts to local businesses, but that it doesn't appear as though one will be undertaken. The community survey indicated that more than 80 per cent of Pemberton businesses supported Ironman's return, and that the greatest concerns were expressed by those in the agriculture industry.

On top of the Pemberton music festival and Ironman, Coun. Ted Craddock pointed out that there are many other Sea to Sky events requiring MOTI involvement and potential road closures, such as Slow Food Cycle Sunday and the RBC GranFondo Whistler, that need to be kept in mind.

"If you look at the corridor ... there are five or six potential road closures or partial road closures during the summer," said Craddock. "That doesn't give the farmers a whole bunch of time to get their product to market."

Council resolved to request a meeting with officials from MOTI and the RMOW before making a decision on its support for Ironman.


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