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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ironman returns: Coeur d’Alene City Council votes to bring full triathlon back in 2021

Mike Saroni, winner of the 2017 Ironman Coeur d'Alene, celebrates with fans as he approaches the finish line. The race will come back in its full, 104.6-mile form in 2021, after switching to a 70.3-mile version in 2018. (BRUCE TWITCHELL / SPECIAL TO THE S-R)

The full Ironman triathlon is returning to Coeur d’Alene.

Coeur d’Alene City Council members approved a North Idaho Sports Commission contract proposal Tuesday to bring the 140.6-mile version of the grueling, world-class race back to the Lake City.

Council members unanimously voted in favor of bringing the full Ironman back in June 2021 on a three-year rotational basis. In 2022 and 2023, the event will revert back to the half-version, Ironman 70.3, which had its most recent Coeur d’Alene event in June.

The 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run would then return to Coeur d’Alene in 2024.

The $125,000 contract with World Triathlon Corp. to host the full race is privately funded through donations and “about 75%” of the fee has been raised, according to Britt Bachtel-Browning, vice president of the North Idaho Sports Commission.

“It benefits the whole community,” Bachtel-Browning said in her presentation Tuesday at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library. “It’s moderate cost to the city compared to its benefit to Coeur d’Alene, and the new rotational model and the involvement of the North Idaho Sports Commission will be good for all parties.”

The full Ironman was in Coeur d’Alene from 2004-’17, offering dozens of qualifying spots for the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii.

The full Ironman and Ironman 70.3 both took place in Coeur d’Alene in 2016 and 2017 on different summer dates. That created event fatigue and made it hard to find volunteers, according to previous reporting.

“Bringing back one race per year is good,” Bachtel-Browning said. “It reduces the community fatigue everyone felt, reduces road closures and volunteers. The June date is cheap, and we learned this through talking to a lot of business owners and athletes.”

“The weather is generally better,” she added, “and there’s more daylight in June and less smoke like there’s been previous Augusts.”

More professional triathletes from around the globe want to race earlier in the summer to qualify for Kona, Bachtel-Browning said

The Chamber of Commerce, the former liaison between Ironman and the City of Coeur d’Alene, announced in June 2017 that it wouldn’t renew its contract with the World Triathlon Corporation for the full Ironman. It was a $50,000 host contract, according to previous reports.

The event’s economic impact was widely discussed in the proposal.

The city of Coeur d’Alene experienced a $7 million economic boost from previous full Ironman competitions, compared to $4 million for the shorter version of the race.

Local business owners, including Naomi Boutz, owner of Vine and Olive Eatery and Wine Bar, spoke during the public comment portion of the council meeting.

“Having managed a restaurant in downtown Coeur d’Alene for over a decade, I’ve experienced both versions of the Ironman race,” Boutz said. “ And I can say without a doubt that business was substantially higher for a full Ironman.

“During the week of a full Ironman, our revenue was 50% higher and sometimes 100% higher compared to a half Ironman.”

The North Idaho Sports Commission will publicly announce the return of the full Ironman on Oct. 27, during Fall Fest in downtown Coeur d’Alene.