The Ironman triathlon’s first visit to the New York area may be its last after the entry fee surged to $1,200.
“This race may be one and done,” John Korff, the event’s local organizer, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “The price is too high.”
Ironman, which is owned by Providence Equity Partners Inc., suspended registration for the 2013 race on Aug. 13, citing feedback from customers and the logistics of staging the race in the New York metropolitan area. The inaugural race was held Aug. 11, with a fee of $895.
“What John Korff and his team were able to accomplish from a logistics standpoint was actually very impressive,” Shane Facteau, Ironman’s vice president of North American operations, said in an interview. “I don’t want that to get lost. That being said, there are challenges and we need to take a step back and look at everything. Operating one of these races in a major metropolitan area carries a pretty significant price tag.”
Refunds will be given to early registrants who paid $1,200, a 34 percent increase over this year’s fee, Ironman said.
Chris Schauble, a 42-year-old news anchor who traveled to New York from Los Angeles with his wife and four daughters to compete in the race as part of a family vacation, said he understands why the price increase has caused backlash. He wants the race to continue.
“Whatever it takes for them to keep the race going, I support it,” Schauble, who spent about $8,500 on the trip, said in a telephone interview. “It was well done. Was it perfect? No. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I know the people involved need to make a profit. But most people who do Ironman know that it’s just such a unique experience. To me, it was worth every penny.”
While Korff, 60, said there were minor logistics issues that need to be addressed, the decision to suspend the registration was based mostly on economic reasons. Registration for the 2012 race sold out in 11 minutes.
Some competitors in this year’s race said it was difficult to get to the event’s start area, which required a ferry ride at 4 a.m. local time, and said the race’s run portion through Manhattan’s Riverside Park was difficult due to numerous pedestrians being on the course.
Javier Ruiz, a 39-year-old wealth management adviser with UBS Financial Services Inc. in Weehawken, New Jersey, competed in the race after finishing his first Ironman last year in Lake Placid, New York.
“I’d never do this race again,” Ruiz said in a telephone interview. “Going through that park was just awful. The romantic idea of it was great and they did the best they could, but it’s just a difficult race to do in a metropolitan area. I’ll probably go back to Lake Placid.”
Korff said he wasn’t consulted about the price increase before registration opened and declined to disclose how many people had signed up for next year.
Facteau and Korff also said the decision was unrelated to the death of a competitor in the swimming portion or the Hudson River sewage discharge that briefly threatened to cancel the swim.
“It’s all about the entry fee,” Korff said. “New York did not fit Ironman’s economic model. They came out with a very high price to be guaranteed of a certain profit. The athletes spoke and they didn’t sign up as quickly as they should and Ironman got nervous. They’re in this to make money. That’s not cold, that’s just reality. If I’m them, I may do the same thing.”
A decision on whether to reopen registration will be made in four to six weeks, Korff said.
If the race is held again, John Marshall, a 42-year-old real estate developer who traveled from Miami, Florida, to compete in his 12th Ironman, said he would likely sign up.
“I ran across the George Washington Bridge,” said Marshall, who grew up in Pelham, New York. “How cool is that? Complexity costs money. If you don’t like the price, sign up for a different one. This is not your typical Ironman.”
The Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim (3.9 kilometers), 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.
A 43-year-old male competitor died during the swim portion of the race. Organizers haven’t identified him, with the South China Morning Post saying he was Andy Naylor, a member of the Hong Kong Police Force since 1992.