The Cost of Ironman: Over $400,000 in Public Funds Spent Annually for Ironman and 70.3 Events

A recent Freedom of Information Law request submitted by AIN to New York State Police (NYSP) revealed that troopers from the Troop B barracks in Ray Brook have provided significant supplemental traffic control and security for 21 Ironman events since July 1999.

In a letter dated June 9, state police representatives asked the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), which runs Ironman, to pay $179,366.12 to cover the cost of the 2021 Ironman. WTC refused, saying that responsibility lies with the community hosting the event.

Representatives from NYSP appear to be in ongoing negotiations with WTC and the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST), the destination marketing organization for Essex and Hamilton counties. AIN’s FOIL request spanned April 1, 2021 to August 2, 2021. A follow-up FOIL request was submitted to learn more about how those negotiations have progressed.

Also included in the FOIL documents is the Ironman Host Venue Agreement for 2016-2021. Adding together figures from the agreement revealed that an estimated $414,366.12 in public funds, including the cost to state police, goes toward the event every year.

Key points:

  • A breakdown of taxpayer dollars and/or public funds spent on the event every year: Village of Lake Placid ($35,000), ROOST ($200,000), New York State Police ($179,366.12). This does not include indirect costs or costs not made available to the public.
  • Indirect costs to the taxpayers include free use of village, town, and ORDA facilities, parks, and infrastructure.
  • In addition to the money ROOST pays to the World Triathlon Corporation, WTC retains all registration fees, which are estimated to be $1,950,000. That’s approximately 3,000 athletes annually, each paying a $650 registration fee.
  • ROOST pays WTC “marketing fees” totaling $200,000 annually. That total includes the $90,000 host fee, which ROOST CEO Jim McKenna claimed is a marketing fee in this Adirondack Daily Enterprise article.
  • The village of Lake Placid annually budgets $35,000 of taxpayer dollars for the Ironman event, which includes: police labor, fire department labor, village worker labor, and electrical service labor. All of that includes use of village powerboats, cones, barricades, underwater divers, a mobile command center, a traffic equipment trailer, and complimentary parking for WTC employees.
  • According to the documents, ROOST provides 150 hotel-room nights for WTC in addition to the $200,000 marketing fee. It is unclear how those rooms are paid for.
  • NYSP provide services amounting to $179.366.12 for troopers, pilots, helicopter, motorcycles, armored vehicle, and other police vehicles.
  • According to the documents, McKenna initially refused to pay the $179.366.12, stating there was a “verbal commitment” from former State Senator Betty Little and an unnamed representative of the New York State Police that state police would cover the event.
  • WTC gives 70 VIP packages to local entities: 30 to ROOST, 10 to the town of North Elba, 10 to the village of Lake Placid, and 20 to the Olympic Regional Development Authority. There are no details regarding what the VIP packages include or how they are disbursed within each entity.

Why It Matters

ROOST has been hosting public comment sessions to gauge people’s perception of the Ironman event. So far, opinions seem to be mixed and the race appears to be a divisive topic within the community.

Based on the numbers, the public is footing the $414,366.12 annual bill for the full Ironman and 70.3 races. The World Triathlon Corporation retains nearly $2 million dollars in registration fees without incurring the $414,366.12 in direct costs taxpayers pay to put on the event.

To our knowledge, none of the above figures or information have been offered up for discussion by ROOST leadership while gathering public input on the Ironman events.

Supporting Documentation

FOIL Documents Obtained from NY State Police.