Hilton Head in the running for triathlon, has years of training

bheffernan@islandpacket.comMay 1, 2013 

Hilton Head Island is competing against several southeastern cities to host an Ironman triathlon race next year that could bring nearly 2,500 competitors and more than $10 million in economic impact, according to Bill Miles, president of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber turned in an application Tuesday to host the race, chamber spokesperson Charlie Clark said.

If Hilton Head is selected, it wouldn't be the first time it has hosted such a race.

The Bud Light U.S. Triathlon Series National Championships had a five-year run on the island, beginning in 1985. The series, which featured 11 races in 1989, was considered the premier series of triathlon events in the country at the time and brought up to 1,800 athletes and national television coverage to the island via ESPN.

The course was centered in Palmetto Dunes for several years before moving farther north on the island in 1989. That year, competitors dove into the water near the Westin Resort and swam .9 miles, then ran 6.2 miles to and around the Planters Row Golf Course before biking 25.6 miles through Hilton Head Plantation, finishing at the Hilton Head Beach & Tennis Resort.

Race organizers received $60,000 in 1989 to cover a host site fee required by CAT Sports, the producer of the race.

The Ironman race would require law enforcement, waste management and EMS for a race next year, but it is unclear yet how much it would cost the town.

The race left the island in 1990 after CAT Sports and the Hilton Head Hospitality Association could not reach an agreement on when to hold the race.

The series itself ran out of gas in 1993 after 11 years of races.

Clark said she didn't think Hilton Head's history as a host site for the Bud Light USTS Championships factored into the chamber's decision to compete for the race.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.

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