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published: Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Olympic-sized challenge coming to Lake Placid
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
LAKE PLACID -- Members of the town council voted unanimously to approve the running of an Olympic-length triathlon in April 2013. The only stipulation was that the race not negatively impact the Town of Lake Placid financially in any way.
Speaking for Paragon Event Professionals, the for-profit company putting on the Lake Placid Multi-Sport Festival, Dan Andrews, its president, promised it would not.
The chamber room was nearly filled to capacity, the overwhelming number of individuals strongly in favor of bringing an Olympic triathlon to Highlands County.
Although a specific weekend has not been picked yet, the schedule is already set. he Lake Placid Muti-Sport Festival will have several events running simultaneously. Saturday will be the kids' race and registration for the adult race. The kids' race will serve as the kickoff for the existing series through the Highlands County Family YMCA, the Rock'n Heartland Youth Triathlon Series to benefit Julie's Funds for Kids. This event will take place first thing in the morning, followed by an awards ceremony and a planned barbecue and musical festival.
Sunday will consist of the sprint distance triathlon and duathlon and the Olympic distance triathlon and duathlon. The sprint distances will be a quarter-mile swim (1 mile run duathlon), 12 mile bike and 3.1 mile run. The Olympic distances will be 3/4 mile swim (1.5-mile run duathlon), a 24-mile bike and a 6.2 mile run.
The event will be sanctioned by USA Triathlon, organizers said.
It was clear from the start that chamber members and the Lake Placid chief of police were in favor of the project.
"I'm very positive on this idea," said Councilor Steve Bastardi. "It will come with negative elements, but that's unavoidable."
Police Chief Phil Williamson reported that the community in general is in favor. "For the most part (the response) has been positive," he said.
Williamson added that the police department was up to the challenge of providing traffic control and public safety on the two days of the event. "It's doable," he said.
Not everyone approves, however.
There are philosophical concerns, for example, because the established Heartland Triathlon in Sebring operates as a not-for-profit, and a major goal of the Lake Placid tri is to make money. Councilor Debra Worley, for one, felt some local non-profit should benefit.
In response to earlier discussions, Andrews said, Paragon promises a portion of the proceeds will go to Julie's Kids at the Sebring Family YMCA and to the Mason Smoak Foundation in Lake Placid.
Councilor Ray Royce wanted to be sure there was a clear line between the organizers of the race and the city. He worried about setting a precedent and insisted the city have no ownership in the project and carry no liability.
It was Patrick High, however, who had the strongest objections.
High and Cherie Starr are the couple most responsible for making the Heartland Triathlon the outstanding event it is.
A passionate advocate for triathlon racing, High was involved with the Paragon project early on, but left over differences.
Monday night, High's expressed concerns involved Andrews and his lack of experience. Andrews, who organized the first Heartland Triathlon, had made mistakes, High said. He added that triathlon races are dangerous. Cyclists get hit by cars, inexperienced swimmers sometimes panic in the crowd. "How much risk do you think is related to that?" he asked the town council.
Were Andrews and his company up to putting on such a complicated event, High was asked.
"Not today," he replied.
A subtext of the discussion had to do with Andrews' past.
Andrews was fired in October of 2008 as executive director of the Sebring Chamber of Commerce and arrested in November of 2008 on charges of grand theft and scheme to defraud. He and the court reached a plea agreement in January of 2010 that included restitution and 60 months of probation.
Several individuals rose to defend Andrews, including Chris Doty, principal of Hill-Gustat Middle School, and Bert Cox, a plumbing contractor.
"I trust him," both men said. Each also addressed the overall benefits of triathlons -- especially their positive impact on children.
Doty said the weekend children's triathlon at the YMCA, which was directed by Andrews, brought in 103 participants, one from Germany.
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