Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Replacing Ironman World Championship 70.3 raises questions for Clearwater

CLEARWATER — One of Clearwater's signature events, the Ironman World Championship 70.3, is leaving town and moving to Las Vegas next year. It will be replaced with a shorter kind of Ironman race.

So what does this mean for Clearwater? It's a vital question because the local tourism industry depends on Ironman's athletes and their friends and families to fill thousands of hotel rooms and restaurant seats every November, which is typically a slow month.

Local officials hope that the replacement event will be just as profitable. But nobody knows for sure.

"We knew this was a distinct possibility. We're hopeful the transition will be smooth," said David Downing, assistant director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We're eager to see what the new event will bring."

This year's Ironman World Championship 70.3 will take place Nov. 13 in Clearwater. The race starts and ends near Clearwater Beach's Pier 60, and its 56-mile bike route circles mid Pinellas County.

Next year it will be replaced by a new Ironman race tour called the 5150 Series, which will feature shorter, Olympic-distance triathlons. The whole race will cover 32 miles instead of 70.3.

There are tradeoffs.

The negative: The 5150 race may not have the buzz of the 70.3 championship, which gets broadcast annually on NBC and makes Clearwater Beach look warm and inviting to a nationwide audience.

The positive: A shorter bike race will mean fewer road closures and inconveniences for drivers. Also, Ironman officials say the 5150 race could attract more athletes because, unlike the 70.3 championship, they won't have to qualify in other races to compete.

"I'm sure everybody feels bad about losing the 70.3 event. But it's invitation-only, and it's limited to approximately 1,700 people," said Bob Clifford, president of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce. "This new event will allow us to market to a broader group. They're talking about it bringing in around 2,000 people."

However, Downing notes that the Ironman 70.3 championship fills hotels partly because it attracts the type of athletes who arrive early to train. Last November, the event filled 10,461 hotel room nights, according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Ironman World Championship 70.3 has been held in Clearwater since its inception in 2006.

Why is it moving? Partly to make the race tougher than it can be in flat, sea-level Florida. Next year's championship race near Las Vegas will feature a challenging bike route through Nevada's Lake Mead National Recreation Area that includes several steep climbs.

In contrast, the toughest part of the Clearwater race is the steep part of the Memorial Causeway Bridge, which some competitors have nicknamed "Heartbreak Hill."

"When you're at sea level, you're not going to get those hills and inclines. They were looking for more challenge in some respects," said Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne. "They gave it a good run here for five years, but the competition matured to a point where they wanted to do something else."

The inaugural 5150 Clearwater event is scheduled for Nov. 12, 2011. The new race series begins March 13, 2011, in Miami, has a May 1 date in St. Petersburg at the St. Anthony's Triathlon, and is scheduled for 10 other cities before returning for the series final in Clearwater.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

fast facts

Ironman events

Ironman triathlons: A 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon, equaling 140.6 miles.

Ironman 70.3 triathlons: Called the "half Ironman." A 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run, equaling 70.3 miles.

Ironman 5150 Series triathlons: An Olympic-distance triathlon. It's a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40K bike ride and 10K run, equaling 32 miles.

Replacing Ironman World Championship 70.3 raises questions for Clearwater 10/08/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 8, 2010 8:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans

    Blogs

    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  2. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?

    Blogs

    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  3. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  4. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  5. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.