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While thousands of athletes and spectators reveled Saturday in Santa Rosa’s newly reunified Old Courthouse Square during the inaugural running of an Ironman triathlon, many residents fumed over road closures that turned everyday trips into prolonged hassles.

Despite an unprecedented effort by city officials to prepare residents and businesses for the impending impact on Santa Rosa traffic, motorists found themselves trapped by an array of closures and travel restrictions that started at 8 a.m. on a sunny weekend morning.

Many hassles occurred along the Third Street corridor west of Highway 101 but also along the Ironman’s 56-mile bicycle leg from Lake Sonoma through vineyards south of Healdsburg, ending at Courthouse Square.

“It was crazy,” said Nancy Dotti of Santa Rosa, who said it took 90 minutes to return home from shopping at the farmers market at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building.

Unable to get back to her home off Fulton Road, Dotti said she ultimately parked at a shopping center on Stony Point Road and walked home.

Robbie Cream said it took almost an hour to get from Highway 12 to his home on West Third Street — usually done in five minutes — with his wife and an unhappy baby in the car.

“Ridiculous,” he said, asserting that Courthouse Square is a poor location for such an event “when people are hustling and bustling all day long.”

Arthur Hills said he was stuck on Third Street for 45 minutes creeping six blocks east to Stony Point Road en route to lunch.

“It’s never been like this before,” Hills said. Run the Ironman route through East Santa Rosa, he suggested, “and see how they like it.”

For residents, as well as city officials and Ironman organizers who jointly planned it, Saturday’s event was like opening night for a stage play.

Windsor High School was the hub of the event, held for years under the Vineman banner until Ironman purchased it in 2015 and relocated the event to Courthouse Square this year, marking the start of a five-year, 10-race contract with the city.

The Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce estimated Saturday’s 70.3-mile race, combined with the full 140.6-mile Ironman in July, would bring $14 million in spending to Sonoma County.

Some critics said the city was in it for the money, overlooking the social impact on residents from an event that attracted about 2,800 endurance athletes from 41 states and 26 nations.

Raissa de la Rosa, the city’s economic development manager, said sold-out hotels and busy restaurants during the race week generated “a phenomenal infusion into our local economy over a short period of time.”

The accompanying tax revenue helps pay for city and county services, she said.

“It’s unfortunate that there were some people who were dramatically affected,” de la Rosa said, noting that city officials are already engaged in an assessment of the event.

“We still have to look at lessons learned,” she said.

Race director Dave Reid acknowledged there were “some issues along the route,” attributing them largely to the change in venue.

“It’s a new event,” he said, noting that residents will, over time, make adjustments to deal with it. More public education will likely lead to less discomfort, he said.

Athletes dove into Lake Sonoma’s chilly water just after 6 a.m. for a bracing 1.2-mile loop swim, followed by the 56-mile bicycle race through wine country to Courthouse Square, where contestants quickly changed into running shoes for a 13.1-mile out-and-back footrace along Prince Memorial Greenway and the Santa Rosa Creek Trail.

Roads approaching Courthouse Square closed at 8 a.m., anticipating it would take the professional runners at least two hours to reach the city by bike. The course was scheduled to close at 3:35 p.m.

Erin Morris, a senior planner, said Santa Rosa mounted the “largest outreach ever” to let people know what was coming. About 44,000 utility customers received an event brochure a month before Ironman 70.3, as did nearly 2,700 property owners and tenants near the course.

A week before race day, about 4,000 customized notices, with specific route information, were mailed or hand-delivered to residents and business owners in neighborhoods most impacted by the event, including the West End area, Morris said.

The city also placed advertisements on radio and in newspapers.

“Most of us live in Santa Rosa,” Morris said, referring to city staffers. “We know these events are an inconvenience to people. A certain amount of inconvenience is just unavoidable.”

Staff from various departments, including planning, police, fire and traffic engineering, are engaged in “debriefing” this week and will begin working on the July 29 Ironman next week, Morris said.

The upcoming race will last twice as long, with athletes making loops through the area, she said. Planning will focus on the “most challenging” parts of the race route, including Stony Point and Fulton roads and Third Street.

Ironman events differ from the Tour of California professional bicycle races Santa Rosa has hosted in the past because the pack of riders moves quickly, allowing for “rolling closures” along the route rather than the “hard closures” required for a triathlon, de la Rosa said.

On Saturday, the bicycle leg of the race was completed around 1 p.m., but in July the course will stay open until 5 p.m. or later.

The need for clear traffic signs along the route has already been identified as an issue, de la Rosa said.

Kevin Hutchinson of Santa Rosa said it took him half an hour to get to work Saturday a mile-and-a-half from his home off Third Street. Road closed signs kept blocking his path, and none of them indicated an alternative route.

The assistant manager at a winery on Westside Road who didn’t want to be identified said her guests sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic on River Road, and some canceled their reservations.

But race day was not a drag for everyone.

“It did not impact my weekend at all,” Christine Culver of Santa Rosa said in an email. “I planned accordingly. These events are great for our community.”

Dave Williams of Windsor said he had seen the event advertisements but forgot all about Ironman when he went out for his weekly bike ride with a friend.

The two men happened upon the racers in Healdsburg and joined them for a trip south on country roads closed to traffic.

“One of our best rides ever,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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