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Penticton gears for financial hit if Ironman Canada cancelled

Based on statements from British Columbia’s Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, it’s likely that Ironman Canada will have to be postponed or cancelled this summer, which could add even more challenges to the city of Penticton as it tries to weather the coronaviris COVID-19 pandemic.

Athletes get ready for the start of the 2009 Ironman Canada race in Penticton. Photo: Dave McColm.

Earlier this week, when Dr. Henry was asked about large outdoor events slated to take place in B.C. this summer, she made it clear that those aren’t likely to happen this summer.

“We do not have enough herd immunity to protect everybody and allow that type of event to happen,” she said. “Large parades, large mass gatherings where we all come together — those will not be happening this summer.”

While Dr. Henry does envision that restrictions will be lifted to some extent this summer, she doesn’t imagine that will be the case for larger gatherings, warning that people will have to rethink weddings and other gatherings.

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“I would tell people to think small,” she said.“I do think there are possibilities in the summer that we will be having lots of other opportunities to have more social interaction, but if you look at the modelling we did … we need to find a sweet spot.”

Related: Live Update: Triathlon cancellations and postponements due to Coronavirus COVID-19

That’s not good news for Penticton’s mayor, John Vassilaki, who is trying to figure out how the city will deal with the lost revenue it’s experiencing thanks to the current social distancing rules. In a city council meeting earlier today Penticton’s chief financial officer said that the “city is losing approximately $200,000 in revenue during COVID-19,” according to a Castanet.net news report.

“With tourism non-existent, the casino and South Okanagan Events Centre both shuttered, millions of dollars in city revenue has been curtailed,” he told Global News.

Those millions could multiply if the city can’t host two big events on the calendar for August – Peachfest and Ironman Canada. The Peachfest Festival has attracted 80,000 visits in years past, and the much-anticipated return of Ironman to Penticton this summer was expected to have “a $10 to $15 million impact on the economy,” according to Vassilaki.

This week we reported on the three Ironman events in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec – Ironman has confirmed that the 70.3 and 5150 events in June won’t be held this year, and sources have indicated that the Ironman event won’t be held in 2020, either.

No Ironman events in Mont-Tremblant in 2020

Yesterday B.C. reported 71 new cases of the coronavirus, the largest one-day total in over three weeks, which doesn’t bode well for social distancing measures lifting any time soon in the province.

At this point there’s been no official word from Ironman about the event in Penticton this summer.