St. George prepares to welcome Ironman World Championship

Mar 28, 2022, 7:02 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 10:36 pm

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Athletes from around the world will soon descend on St. George for the Ironman World Championship — marking the first time the race has been held outside of Hawaii.

The city and surrounding areas in Washington County will host the world championship for Ironman’s full-distance triathlon on Saturday, May 7.

Uncertainty surrounding pandemic and travel restrictions in Hawaii required Ironman to look for an alternative site for the 2021 postponed championship. The director of the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office said he was surprised and honored to be asked to host the prestigious race.

“This is a huge event,” Kevin Lewis said in an interview with KSL. “This is the most iconic endurance event in the world. It’s been in Hawaii for 44 years and the first time in Utah. It’s going to take a lot to pull it off, and we definitely want to put on a good show.”

St. George has hosted other Ironman races since 2010. Last September, it hosted the Ironman 70.3 World Championship — known as the half Ironman — and will host that race again this October.

“So, three world championships here in the course of 13 months,” Lewis said. “No destination has ever done anything like that.”

Ironman executives said last year that they were appreciative that St. George stepped up to host Ironman World Championship and that they were confident it would be an outstanding event.

“We are fortunate to have built such a strong and trusted relationship with our friends in the greater St. George region over the past 10-plus years,” read a prepared statement from Andrew Messick, Ironman Group’s president and chief executive officer.

For Red Rock Bicycle Company in St. George, the week of an Ironman race means shifting gears to support athletes and making repairs.

“It’s kind of a big deal that it’s not going to be in Kona,” said store manager Joey Dye. “We don’t have this level of sporting event show up very often, so it’s incredible.”

The economic payoff for the store normally comes down the road because of all the attention on the sport and also Ironman athletes returning to train in the area.

“The excitement for us is really the residual of what it does for our cycling community and what it does to inspire new athletes,” Dye said.

Around 3,500 athletes are expected to participate in the May 7 world championship. The race is projected to infuse between $30 and $35 million into the local economy, according to the tourism office.

“That will be the biggest event that’s ever happened in southern Utah,” Lewis said.

The athletes participating in the race tend to stay in St. George about a week. They also train in the area ahead of the event, providing a year-round economic impact.

“They bring in their family, friends and support teams,” Lewis explained. “They’re staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants.”

Looking ahead to October, the 70.3 World Championship will be expanded to two days and will include nearly 7,000 athletes.

“So that could be another $35 million,” Lewis said. “So, you’re looking at $70 to $80 million in economic impact this year alone.”

The tourism office is still looking for about 2,500 more volunteers for the May 7 race. For more information on how to volunteer, click here.

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St. George prepares to welcome Ironman World Championship