ST GEORGE - Athletes are preparing to compete in the St George Ironman this weekend, and the city is busy setting up to host.
Staff and volunteers spent Wednesday transforming town square into Ironman village, which will become the central hub of the triathlon.
“We sold out pretty early,” said St. George Tourism Bureau sports marketing director Kevin Lewis. “It’s about 2,800 athletes in the field, and 100 of the top pros are here.”
This will be the fifth time St George has hosted the event, drawing in athletes from 25 different countries and 42 different states. About 1,000 of the people competing are from Utah.
"Ironman put a new brand on us, that opened up eyes to what the possibilities are down here,” Lewis said. “So I really think it’s changed the chemistry and dynamic of the community.”
It takes them close to a week to set up for the one-day event. But tourism directors said lasting effects of that triathlon can be seen throughout the year.
“You get that return traffic for vacations, and you also get people coming in to train once they discover the area and how great it is as a training ground,” Lewis said. “That’s probably another one or two million in economic impact throughout the year.”
That impact comes at a different cost; closing down roads and accommodating the 70.3-mile course. St George police officials said it’s an adjustment that takes getting used to each year, but one they’re prepared to do.
“We’ve put up signs and we’ve got road closures in place,” said St. George Police Sergeant Sam Despain. “Despite the road closures, everybody should be able to get around town with no problems.”
Residents said it’s exciting to see the world event come together. For some, the Ironman competition represents why they came to St. George, to relish in the outdoor experience.
“It’ a good thing for the economy down here,” said St. George resident Zack Fox. “It brings in a lot of money for people coming in to see it.”
The event starts Saturday. A map of closures can be found on the city’s website, here. (The file may open online or begin downloading as a PDF, depending on your browser and settings.)
The city has also set up a help line for the event. Those with questions can call: 435-627-4766.