Santa Rosa is gearing up for Saturday’s Ironman 70.3 triathlon, which comes this weekend with a focus on supporting the community after October’s firestorm.
The swim, bicycle and foot race will have some 3,400 competitors, about 1,400 more than its full-length counterpart held in May. The city expects the two events to generate about $13 million in regional economic activity.
“The half Ironman is a more manageable distance and you get a larger field, and even more exposure for the city and county,” said Peter Rumble, CEO for the Santa Rosa Metro Area Chamber of Commerce.
He said the races “are a wonderful set of events that showcase Santa Rosa to the world — it means a lot for us on the tourism level and on the economic level.”
Saturday’s race begins at Lake Sonoma at 6:30 a.m. with a 1.2-mile swim, transitioning to a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run through Santa Rosa that ends at Old Courthouse Square, where an expo village has been set up.
It brings with it a medley of road closures and delays. Last year, closures caused frustration, but officials say a reconfigured course closely mirroring the one in May will keep more roads open and maintain access to Highways 101 and 12.
“We improved over last year for the full Ironman and we’ve made attempts to continue to improve by clarifying the direction and times of this year,” said Raissa de la Rosa, the city’s economic development manager. “We strive to do better this year … it’s a lesser distance and we’re not closing West Third Street.”
The event fills hotels, draws customers to local businesses and places fire-scarred Santa Rosa on the map as an “outdoor activity destination,” she said.
“It’s not just hotel stays – it’s general tourist spending,” she said. “It’s generally a pretty good demographic in terms of disposable spending. This is a really expensive sport.”
On Sunday, Ironman employees, athletes and partners will team up with the nonprofit Rebuilding Together Petaluma to construct 10 decks that’ll later be attached to tiny homes for fire victims. Sarah Hartman, Ironman Foundation’s acting executive director, said all 75 volunteer slots filled up for the project, which will be held at 180 Studios south of Santa Rosa.
The foundation also is giving the nonprofit $30,000 for post-fire efforts, she said.
“People really need to be in houses this fall who have been displaced by the fires … it’s great when a foundation like Ironman recognizes that and puts their support behind it,” said Jane Hamilton, executive director of Rebuilding Together Petaluma.
She said five tiny rental homes outfitted with the decks will be placed on a small lot in Windsor this fall as part of a larger effort by Homes for Sonoma.
The Ironman Foundation will award a $5,000 grant to Save Lives Sonoma, which provides CPR education, during a Friday invite-only reception for first responders at Perch & Plow, Hartman said. Notable athletes will be in attendance.
It’ll also give Santa Rosa Parks Foundation a $15,000 grant and the proceeds from Sunday’s new community 5K race. The nonprofit is focused on rebuilding 10 fire-impacted parks.
“Though we’re not in Santa Rosa 365 days a year, we’re always thinking about the families and the organizations based in Santa Rosa,” Hartman said. “When a disaster like the wildfires hit in one of our communities, it’s hitting us where it hurts.”