The Subaru Sooke Triathlon scheduled for 2013 has been cancelled due to a loss of support for a closure of West Coast Road/Highway 14.
Mike Hicks, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area regional director, chose not to support the road closure due to complaints from tourists and local businesses, and concerns from the Shirley fire department regarding safety and access.
Increased vehicle traffic due to the opening of the Pacific Marine Circle Route was also a factor.
“I, more than anyone, worked to make this work, and I’m hugely disappointed that we’ve lost the triathlon, but I guess we can’t have it both ways,” Hicks said. “There was concerns everywhere. It was just too busy — Highway 14 isn’t some country little road out there.”
Hicks said he sent a letter on Sept. 15 to LifeSport regarding his concerns over closing Highway 14.
“I did that early so people could make a decision,” said Hicks.
He said there were no phonecalls or comments and he said he had to wonder how interested everyone was.
Paul Regensburg, LifeSport coach and partner, said it was a “difficult” and “emotional” decision to cancel the race.
“We are grateful to the community groups and to the support of the events and to the local business community. We know and understand that they were big supporters and this is not a reflection upon them whatsoever,” he said.
“From a small business perspective it’s disappointing as well because we invested heavily both financially and emotionally into the event in hopes of growing this over time into that wonderful thousand plus participant race.”
However, Regensburg said without West Coast Road, the race did not have a feasible biking venue.
“In the early years of the race we had a loop that went around the Otter Point route, through Grant Road and that was okay in the early years because the participation was lower,” he said.
“But as participation rose it was unsafe to have participants on that loop, and that was the reason that we moved to West Coast Road to accommodate the larger numbers.”
Participation grew from 157 triathletes in 2007 to over 500 in 2012, which marked the sixth annual event.
The road closure, which took place at the intersection of West Coast Road and the west-end of Otter Point Road to 15 km west of Jordan River, occurred over three hours.
Addressing concerns regarding access in the event of an emergency, Regensburg said contingency plans were in place to accommodate emergency personnel.
“We had a safety plan that had unlimited access and unobstructed access for safety vehicles,” he said, adding temporary travel for residents was also permitted during a short time frame.
Sooke Mayor Wendal Milne said he is disappointed over the loss of the triathlon. He said council hadn’t quite pinned down the economic advantage but he did know the event showcased the community.
“We were trying to do that,” he said, “we were trying to get a handle on that so we could say ‘Here’s what the economic advantage is.’”
He said the TSN coverage was “fantastic.”
For two years the district was spending $25,000 for TSN coverage of the event and another $8,000 in additional costs, such as policing.
Support for the triathlon and disappointment at the cancellation of the event from athletes and residents of the area has fueled numerous comments on the Sooke News Mirror’s Facebook page.