The Subaru Sooke Triathlon has been an event supported by the District of Sooke through the Economic Development Commission (EDC) for the past five years. The triathlon involves athletes competing in swimming, cycling and running over a half Ironman course stretching from Jordan River to Young Lake.
During those five years, scores of volunteers and district staff were instrumental in the event running smoothly. From the $8,000 for policing to the district’s one-third share $25,000 for the $75,000 TSN coverage, the district paid the cost. Now there is some talk of having a society take over the functions.
“If we transfer this to a society, it has to be community supported,” said CAO Evan Parliament, at the Finance and Administration Committee meeting on May 7. He said the triathlon has the potential to attract 1,500 competitors and $2 to 2.5 million into the community. He said competitors and those who accompany them each spend $3,600 over two days while in Sooke. Last year the race attracted about 400 competitors in all categories. He said all of the rooms in hotels, resorts and B&Bs were booked during the triathlon.
He said the partners, LifeSport, Subaru and the District of Sooke each pay $25,000 to have TSN come in and film the race and the region. Parliament said that 1.1 million viewers watched last year’s coverage.
Some members of the committee questioned the direct and indirect benefits.
Parliament said the TSN exposure was excellent for marketing and promotion of Sooke. He did say that he had not done any “actuals” on the money spent here.
“We need a way to measure benefits,” said Mayor Wendal Milne. “We want a more detailed report from the EDC, we need to justify every nickel we spend.”
Parliament said there is some talk among the partners of putting in a bid to bring the Nationals to Sooke in 2013, although no formal application has yet been made. The Nationals are a full Ironman rather than the Half Ironman currently being run. The ultimate goal, said Parliament was to get a full Ironman in Sooke. To get to use the Ironman name there is a licensing fee of $150,000 which would be split three ways between the partners.
Parliament wants to know what kind of commitment the district would make to the Nationals.
Councillor Bev Berger stated that this seemed like a lot of up front money from the district. As we didn’t have the facilities such as Langford had, the district had to “err on the side of caution” when it came to committing monetary support.
Chair of the committee, Rick Kasper, said that if we (the district) incurred cost we should benefit from fees. He suggested a survey from the competitors to see how much they spent attending the race in Sooke and where they stayed.
“If we form a society, it does not mean the cost to the taxpayer will be reduced. If someone (society) takes it on, we have no direct control or checks and balances on costs,” said Kasper.
There are a number of concerns coming forward from residents to the west of Sooke along Highway 14. Residents felt there was no acknowledgement or financial benefit to the communities where the bulk of the race was run. The road closures were confusing and inconvenient and there seemed to be a lack of organization and training of volunteers. No consultation or acknowledgement of the impact on residents of the Juan de Fuca was seen. They also felt it was inappropriate to close the main highway which was the only route in or out for a sporting event.
The Subaru Sooke Triathlon takes place on August 12. It is a Olympic Distance World Championship Qualifying event and is part of the Subaru Western Triathlon Series with triathlons in Shawnigan Lake, Victoria, Vancouver, Sooke and Banff.
See more on the triathlon on page B14.