UPDATE:The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce’s spokeswoman, Charlie Clark, confirms that the Ironman half triathlon will not be coming to Hilton Head Island in October 2016. Clark confirmed that in a meeting on Wednesday, Chamber CEO Bill Miles had learned the organizers of the Ironman company had decided to organize the race elsewhere, though the location had not been released.
The Chamber, along with town council members had been working to set a race route last summer, in hopes of hosting the race in October 2016. Those in favor of the race boasted the economic impact to the island it would bring. Others, such as Beaufort County Sheriff PJ Tanner, had no endorsed the race, citing safety issues and emergency response problems with certain proposed routes.
BACKGROUND: Some law enforcement considered it a risky race for athletes hoping to compete in a future half Ironman triathlon. However, the Town of Hilton Head Island is still pushing to host the race in October 2016. As time narrows to sign the deal, Mayor Pro Tem Bill Harkins hopes Beaufort County Sheriff can agree to a route.
Tanner presented a route following Highway 278 from Palmetto Dunes to Highway 170, Lemon Island, as part of the 70.3 miles for swimmers, runners, and bikers. Tanner stated that although he believed it was the best route, he was still against it since it could block residents into neighborhoods and slow emergency response.
Now, Tanner has constructed a route that would make laps around Hilton Head Island, though Ironman organizers do not agree to it. Harkins says there’s still another option on the table that would do residents and visitors good.
Harkins is a staunch supporter of the race coming to Hilton Head, and is thrilled the Ironman organizers want to do business.
“They are quite the expert at the management of these events. Their key concern is the safety of all the participants, and those that go to observe it,” Harkins says.
He says Town Council is all for the race.
Then in a recent news conference, Sheriff Tanner stated: “This is going to be too big of a challenge for our community.”
Whatever route agreed upon, resident Gail Wargo hopes all can come to an agreement and welcome the Ironman with open arms.
“I live in Hilton Head Plantation myself, and as a homeowner there and year round resident, would I be willing to put up with one day a year of inconvenience, for the amazing economic benefit for my fellow islanders? Absolutely, yes,” Wargo says.
Hilton Head first responders say they can plan to make it work.
“All the plans we’ve looked at up to this point have all been plans that we can work with. There are things that we can do to mitigate time loss. Anytime you have a lot of traffic, you’re going to have that kind of situation, but we’ve been working towards plans and working with the organizers of the event to see what we can do to minimize any kind of time impact,” Deputy Chief Michael Mayers said.
The route Harkins says works best for the town and Ironman organizers starts at Palmetto Dunes and goes up to Buckwalter Parkway in Bluffton and back. He says this is the plan he hopes the sheriff can agree to in the end.