Ironman events returned to Walker County this month, including the Ironman 70.3 World Championship
showcase event. 91 countries, regions and territories were represented by the 4,500 competitors taking part in the two day race. Nearly three times that many visitors came to the area to experience the event.
This was the first time in four years the Ironman 70.3 World Championship
had been on U.S. soil, although several qualifiers have taken place here. Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield welcomed the triathletes to Walker County, providing them with a brief overview of what they could expect along the 56-mile bike course.
Cyclists entered the county on Red Riding Hood Trail, near Rock City Gardens, turned left onto Lula Lake Road, road about 15 miles and then cut over to Highway 341, via Lookout Mountain Scenic Highway/Highway 136.
The route took cyclists through downtown Chickamauga, past Gordon Lee Mansion and Coke Ovens. Triathletes then ventured up Highway 341, before turning right onto Highway 193 and heading back into Chattanooga.
The event provided great exposure for Walker County, considering competitors came from hundreds of miles away. 279 made the trek from California, 264 from Canada, 232 from Austrailia, 213 from the United Kingdom and 151 from Florida. This competition will also be broadcast on television later this year, giving others the opportunity to soak in the stunning scenery of Walker County.
From a direct economic standpoint, it's unclear just how much Walker County benefits financially from Ironman events. The last study done by UTC
on the economic impact of Ironman lumped Walker County together with Chattanooga and Hamilton County, providing no individual breakdown.
All emergency personnel expenses are reimbursed, the Ironman Foundation gave the county's disaster assistance group (COAD) a $2,000 grant and the nearly dozen or so school and community groups that volunteer receive between $200 and $1,000 for their organizations. Bookings at Mountain Cove Farms also receive a boost during Ironman events.
The five-year contract with Ironman runs through 2018, with the potential to extend. The next regional event takes place May 20, 2018.