Tag Archives: 5150

Will TriRock Work in Clearwater?

By Pete Williams

Racing Clearwater's bridges

It’s been quite a start to 2012 for Competitor Group and its endurance sports properties in Florida.

Two weeks ago, the San Diego-based publisher and event promoter pulled its Muddy Buddy series out of Florida, part of a downsizing to just eight events for the bike-and-run event for 2012. Competitor had considered moving its popular Orlando Muddy Buddy race to Pasco County after Disney booted outside endurance sports promoters from the Magic Cashbox, but decided to go with more proven markets, at least for 2012.

This week, runners participating in Competitor’s inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in St. Petersburg on Sunday realized they must pay $15 to park at Tropicana Field to pick up their race packets and another $15 on race day unless they make less convenient arrangements. That’s part of a complicated relationship between Competitor, the City of St. Pete, and the Tampa Bay Rays, but mostly a product of the cushy deal St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster gave Competitor.

But when it comes to sucking up to endurance sports conglomerates and giving away the keys to the city, nobody does it better than Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, who after getting little in return for the city’s six-year investment with the World Triathlon Corporation to put on five Ironman 70.3 races and cancel a 5150 event, signed on this week to host a November event in Competitor’s TriRock triathlon series.

The inaugural TriRock Clearwater will take place November 11, the same weekend Ironman canceled its inaugural 5150 event last year due to low registration and the same weekend Ironman staged its year-end 70.3 championship from 2006-2010. That event, which attracted few spectators and little media coverage, generated headlines mostly for tying up 56 miles of traffic in Florida’s most densely populated county.

The Tampa-based World Triathlon Corp. relocated the 70.3 event to Nevada for 2011 and thanked Clearwater on the way out by not printing “Clearwater” on a single piece of merchandise for the 2010 event. In October, WTC canceled its inaugural 5150 season-ending event in Clearwater just three weeks before the race when it could not reach its modest goal of 800 participants.

Race director Philip LaHaye wondered at the time if Clearwater could “support a bigger production, $150-per-person race” at the end of the season.

Competitor’s entry fees for TriRock, which features sprint-distance and Olympic-length triathlons, rank among the highest in the industry. The sprint distance costs $100 through Sept. 10 and escalates to $150. The Olympic distance costs between $140 and $180 depending on when the athlete registers. This does not include the RaceIt.com online registration fee, which also goes to Competitor, which purchased the Virginia-based online registration company in August.

No word on parking arrangements and fees but they were not an issue during Ironman’s 70.3 events out of Clearwater Beach, which featured roughly 2,000 triathletes per race.

Competitor is banking on athletes paying a premium for enjoying rock bands along the course, much like they do for the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series. The company’s Web site bills TriRock as featuring a “rocking competition, complete with live bands along the swim, bike and run courses, followed by a post-race party and concert.”

The TriRock series debuted last year with races in Annapolis, Md., Seattle, San Diego, and Gettysburg, Pa. This year’s schedule starts in New York on May 5 and includes races in Annapolis, Seattle, Austin, and San Diego.

Competitor expects 1,000 athletes for the Clearwater event, which starts with a swim in the water off Clearwater Beach. Such modest expectations make sense for a city that, for whatever reason, has struggled to build traction around the booming sport. In addition to Ironman’s mixed results, the Sand Key Triathlon initially folded last year after a seven-year run. A new promoter took over the event, postponed it from September to Feb. 25 and this week announced its cancellation.

The Morton Plant Mease Triathlon, a sprint-distance event held like the Sand Key Triathlon at Sand Key Park just south of Clearwater Beach, debuted in 2006 and is scheduled for June 24.

 

 

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Ironman Cancels Clearwater 5150 Finale

By Pete Williams

No 5150 Race in Clearwater in 2011

World Triathlon Corporation, parent company of Ironman, has postponed the year-end event of its inaugural 5150 triathlon series, scheduled for Nov. 12 in Clearwater, because of low interest.

Philip LaHaye, WTC’s director of operations and the event director for the 5150 series, would not say how many athletes registered, but did say registrations fell short of the company’s modest expectations of “800 to 1,000 athletes.”

“When you have low participant numbers, from a budgetary standpoint, it starts to challenge what you can do from from a production standpoint,” LaHaye said.

Though the move is billed as a “postponement,” it’s effectively a cancellation as the race will not be rescheduled for 2011. Athletes were informed this afternoon that they would receive a full refund, including online registration fees.

With the cancellation of the Clearwater event, the 5150 season will end Sunday in Galveston, Texas.

The Olympic-distance Clearwater 5150 triathlon was scheduled a year ago after WTC moved the year-end championship of its 70.3 (half-Ironman) distance race to Nevada after five years in Clearwater.

Most of the 10 domestic races in the 5150 series were existing events with long track records of attracting thousands of athletes, such as the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, DC Triathlon, New York City Triathlon, and Hy-Vee Triathlon.

LaHaye said it proved challenging to draw athletes to a new year-end event in Clearwater that was not a championship. WTC staged the 5150 championship last month in Iowa, where the Hy-Vee Triathlon provides $1.1 million in prize money and attracts an elite field.

Reports of limited interest in the Clearwater 5150 finale picked up steam last month when LaHaye sent an e-blast offering a discount to athletes who registered for both the 5150 finale as well as next year’s St. Anthony’s Triathlon, which became part of the 5150 series this year.

Athletes could register for both events for $250, a discount of $60 from the combined entry fee price, and an unusual move for WTC, which during the triathlon boom of the last five years has been able to command increasingly higher fees for races of all distances.

LaHaye said price point is one area WTC will revisit as it restructures the 5150 series for 2012.

“While we can’t go in and produce a $65-per-person race, that doesn’t mean the (Clearwater) market is ready at end of the season to support a bigger production, $150-per-person race,” LaHaye said. “In 2012, you will see a different 5150 series with new things planned and a different pricing structure that will protect the longevity of the series. It will protect the quality of what we want to do and come in at a reasonable price point for athlete.

“In some regards, 2011 has been a learning experience,” LaHaye added. “There have been a lot of positives that we take away from that. The word I’ve been using is that we’re at a re-set point. I’ll be the first to admit we – and I – made some calculated assumptions that maybe we weren’t completely right on about.”

WTC announced the 10-race, domestic portion of the 5150 series a year ago, rebranding existing Olympic-distance races “5150” in reference to the usual Olympic distance of 51.50 kilometers (1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run).

The 5150 series was the latest brand extension for Ironman, which successfully re-branded a number of half-Ironman races as “70.3” in recent years in reference to mileage of a half-Ironman race. That enabled athletes to pursue an Ironman-branded accomplishment without undergoing the ambitious training schedule to complete a full-distance Ironman.

The 5150 series, however, did not generate as much excitement. Unlike the 70.3 series, the Ironman logo did not figure prominently in 5150 marketing and merchandise. Many athletes did not view an Olympic-distance event as an Ironman-worthy accomplishment.

LaHaye said 5150 was never meant to be closely linked to an Ironman-distance race.

“There was never an intent to try to marry this series with Ironman,” he said. “We had the understanding that they were completely different. There is some appeal to going hard and fast on a shorter course for the longer distance athlete, and we want to re-energize the sport at the international distance.”

Unlike the 70.3 championship, which took place in Clearwater from 2006-2010 and determined the male and female champions for the season, the 5150 event in Clearwater was merely a series finale. The lucrative Hy-Vee Triathlon took place in Iowa last month with Greg Bennett of Australia and Sweden’s Lisa Norden each won $151,500 for winning the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively.

The 5150 postponement is the second recent setback for WTC, which in August quietly canceled plans for Primal Challenge, a proposed obstacle mud run series that was to debut in Charlotte last month, with a second run to take place in Lake Wales in November.

LaHaye said WTC wants to have a successful 5150 race in Clearwater but is limited by the calendar. The city already is packed from late February through early April because of spring break and the summer months are too hot for Olympic-distance racing.

“Is it a November race next year with some changes? I don’t know,” he said. “We will sit down with the city and come up with a plan that will work for 2012. Right now it’s too soon to know what that will look like.”

 

 

 

 

 

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