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High-Impact Sporting Event Has Big Impact on Crucian Economy

April 14, 2008 — Two decades old and going strong, the 20th St. Croix Ironman 70.3 triathlon will bring business and international attention to St. Croix, but there is plenty of room for growth.
One of the premier destination triathlons in the world, racers will wind through the island's waters and roadways May 4. Some 850 top athletes, their spouses, children, friends and supporters will soon descend upon the big island. Hotel rooms will fill. The Friday before the race, a Jump Up celebration will pack the streets, stores, bars and restaurants of Christiansted.
The race definitely brings people and money to St. Croix, Race Director Tom Guthrie said in an interview Monday. But the benefits are difficult to quantify, and when numbers are given they are not very reliable, he said.
"All we know is it is safe to say we fill up the available rooms on St. Croix," he said. "And if we had more hotel rooms, we would have more participants."
There are 100 more participants this year than last, Guthrie said, attributing the increase to more rooms at Divi Carina Bay Resort. The bump from last year results from unusual circumstances, not a dramatic trend, said Pat Henry, Divi's general manager.
"I've always had rooms available," he said. "Last year was hurt a bit because Hovensa's turnaround filled a lot of rooms. So they changed their starting date to not take over everything available at that time. Hovensa needs to be commended for that."
Whether growing exponentially or gradually, it is still a good thing, he said.
"Is it a great event?" Henry said. "Yes. Does it fill every hotel room? I don't know. But it is a huge shot in the arm for us every May. … With 850 athletes people pair up, so there are maybe 500 rooms rented. That's 50 percent of the hotel rooms on the island."
The benefits come to businesses all over the island, but boost Christiansted the most.
"It does not have a big impact out west," said Brian Mika, owner of Aqua West restaurant in Frederiksted. "We get one or two customers."
He and others restaurateurs said restaurants on the Christiansted boardwalk see several good busy days. Hotels see a big spike, restaurants in the hotels do well and restaurants a bit further afield see a bump in sales; a few good but not necessarily extremely busy days. But these good days come at the tail end of the season, and are prized.
Though the race is well established, Guthrie sees plenty of potential for growth.
"Most Ironman competitions easily sell out at 2,000 participants," he said. "Our race is far more famous than other Ironman races — because we've been around longer, for one reason."
The visitors are a good demographic, too.
"The Ironman athletes are professionals: doctors, lawyers and so on, typically with six-figure family incomes," he said. "This is the kind of visitors that St. Croix wants and needs."
Guthrie sees this and other races as part of a package, a part of the branding of the island as a destination.
"It is not just the Ironman," he said. "Along with Elizabeth Armstrong's Coral Reef swim from Buck Island in October and Wallace Williams' St. Croix International Marathon in January, they mark St. Croix as the endurance-sport island. … We are trying to turn our events into an economic engine."
This year's race has attracted some of the most highly respected and admired athletes in the field to participate: Simon Lessing, Craig Alexander, Faris al-Sultan, Mirinda Carfrae and Karen Smyers. Other noteworthy participants include Joanna Zeiger, Nina Kraft, Michael Lavato and Julie Dibbens.
Many eyes will be on Alexander, who has become synonymous with the race. The Australian triathlete has placed first in three of the last five races, dating back to 2003. He did not race in 2005 and placed second in 2004.
The race kicks off with a 1.24-mile swim around Christiansted Harbor. Next the competitors begin a demanding 56-mile bike ride that includes sharp turns, twisting roadways and the legendary "Beast," a 600-foot climb with a 14 to 18 percent grade. Finally, the triathletes run a 13.1-mile foot course. Round it up and you get the 70.3 miles of the course.
As an affiliate of the Ironman World Championships, the St. Croix Ironman 70.3 Triathlon offers participating athletes a chance to fill 28 qualifying slots in the Hawaii Ironman, as well as 50 Ironman 70.3 World Championship spots.
Additional information can be found at stcroixtriathlon.com or by calling (340) 773-4470.
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April 14, 2008 -- Two decades old and going strong, the 20th St. Croix Ironman 70.3 triathlon will bring business and international attention to St. Croix, but there is plenty of room for growth.
One of the premier destination triathlons in the world, racers will wind through the island's waters and roadways May 4. Some 850 top athletes, their spouses, children, friends and supporters will soon descend upon the big island. Hotel rooms will fill. The Friday before the race, a Jump Up celebration will pack the streets, stores, bars and restaurants of Christiansted.
The race definitely brings people and money to St. Croix, Race Director Tom Guthrie said in an interview Monday. But the benefits are difficult to quantify, and when numbers are given they are not very reliable, he said.
"All we know is it is safe to say we fill up the available rooms on St. Croix," he said. "And if we had more hotel rooms, we would have more participants."
There are 100 more participants this year than last, Guthrie said, attributing the increase to more rooms at Divi Carina Bay Resort. The bump from last year results from unusual circumstances, not a dramatic trend, said Pat Henry, Divi's general manager.
"I've always had rooms available," he said. "Last year was hurt a bit because Hovensa's turnaround filled a lot of rooms. So they changed their starting date to not take over everything available at that time. Hovensa needs to be commended for that."
Whether growing exponentially or gradually, it is still a good thing, he said.
"Is it a great event?" Henry said. "Yes. Does it fill every hotel room? I don't know. But it is a huge shot in the arm for us every May. ... With 850 athletes people pair up, so there are maybe 500 rooms rented. That's 50 percent of the hotel rooms on the island."
The benefits come to businesses all over the island, but boost Christiansted the most.
"It does not have a big impact out west," said Brian Mika, owner of Aqua West restaurant in Frederiksted. "We get one or two customers."
He and others restaurateurs said restaurants on the Christiansted boardwalk see several good busy days. Hotels see a big spike, restaurants in the hotels do well and restaurants a bit further afield see a bump in sales; a few good but not necessarily extremely busy days. But these good days come at the tail end of the season, and are prized.
Though the race is well established, Guthrie sees plenty of potential for growth.
"Most Ironman competitions easily sell out at 2,000 participants," he said. "Our race is far more famous than other Ironman races -- because we've been around longer, for one reason."
The visitors are a good demographic, too.
"The Ironman athletes are professionals: doctors, lawyers and so on, typically with six-figure family incomes," he said. "This is the kind of visitors that St. Croix wants and needs."
Guthrie sees this and other races as part of a package, a part of the branding of the island as a destination.
"It is not just the Ironman," he said. "Along with Elizabeth Armstrong's Coral Reef swim from Buck Island in October and Wallace Williams' St. Croix International Marathon in January, they mark St. Croix as the endurance-sport island. ... We are trying to turn our events into an economic engine."
This year's race has attracted some of the most highly respected and admired athletes in the field to participate: Simon Lessing, Craig Alexander, Faris al-Sultan, Mirinda Carfrae and Karen Smyers. Other noteworthy participants include Joanna Zeiger, Nina Kraft, Michael Lavato and Julie Dibbens.
Many eyes will be on Alexander, who has become synonymous with the race. The Australian triathlete has placed first in three of the last five races, dating back to 2003. He did not race in 2005 and placed second in 2004.
The race kicks off with a 1.24-mile swim around Christiansted Harbor. Next the competitors begin a demanding 56-mile bike ride that includes sharp turns, twisting roadways and the legendary "Beast," a 600-foot climb with a 14 to 18 percent grade. Finally, the triathletes run a 13.1-mile foot course. Round it up and you get the 70.3 miles of the course.
As an affiliate of the Ironman World Championships, the St. Croix Ironman 70.3 Triathlon offers participating athletes a chance to fill 28 qualifying slots in the Hawaii Ironman, as well as 50 Ironman 70.3 World Championship spots.
Additional information can be found at stcroixtriathlon.com or by calling (340) 773-4470.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.