Hilton Head Island is known as a place to rest your body and relax, but some island leaders are hoping it also will become a place to push the human limits of stress and endurance.
The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce plans to enter the island into a competition to be selected as a host site for an Ironman Triathlon to be held in fall 2014.
Nearly 2,500 triathletes are expected to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles in the race. The competitors also are predicted to bring a $10 million to $15 million economic boost through lodging, food and beverage, retail and other purchases, according to chamber president Bill Miles.
"The economic impact and caliber of the participants really make this a good opportunity for Hilton Head Island and the whole Lowcountry," Miles said.
Ironman competitors are not just world-class athletes; they tend to be the type of traveler that Hilton Head tries to attract. According to the Ironman organization, 92 percent of the participants have college degrees, and their average household income is $174,000.
"The demographics for the competitors is a natural fit for Hilton Head Island," Miles said.
Hilton Head was one of many communities solicited by Ironman to apply to host an annual southeast regional race in fall 2014. The selected site will be offered a five-year agreement to host the race.
The chamber's deadline to turn in the application is Tuesday. The application still needs to be completed, but Miles said it will be submitted on time. Part of the application is listing route suggestions, but Miles said Thursday none has been chosen yet.
The race on Hilton Head would offer athletes an opportunity to compete in a bigger race on a bigger island. Athletes who post adequate times could qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kialua-Kona, Hawaii.
Panama City, Fla., and Louisville, Ky., also host Ironman races, but their proximity shouldn't affect Hilton Head's ability to attract athletes, chamber spokeswoman Charlie Clark said. Most competitor spots for the races sell out within minutes of opening, according to Ironman.
The chamber would not need a vote of approval from Hilton Head Town Council to submit the application. The town might need to provide law enforcement, EMS and waste management for the race. Clark said the chamber would coordinate with town staff as the application process moves forward.
Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.