Tents are erected Wednesday in Augusta for the Ironman 70.3 triathlon, to be held Sunday in the city. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — It will likely take some time for the numbers to be crunched, but the local organizations helping put on the capital region’s first Ironman 70.3 triathlon expect it to be an economic boon for central Maine.

The half-triathlon scheduled to take place Sunday is drawing hundreds of athletes and their friends and family members — many from out of state — to Augusta. And when they come, they are expected to spend some money.

It could result in up to $10 million in direct and indirect spending for the region.

“We’ll have an economic study at the end of it,” Katie Doherty, president and chief executive officer of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, said this week.

Doherty and the chamber have played an instrumental role in working with the Ironman organization to develop the plan with federal, state and local agencies to make the event possible.

“Ironman gave us a study from a similar-sized city and population,” Doherty said, “and it’s an $8 million to $10 million impact.”


That study estimated 8,500 total visitors came as a part of the race, staying at hotels, vacation rentals and campgrounds for three to five days. Most had come from outside the local region and were with two or three people.

The Ironman organization also drives spending in the local economy. Doherty said all the services and vendors it will use — including catering, docking systems, rental cars and tents — are provided by local businesses and chamber members.

Some of that expected impact is already being felt in the region.

Officials say they expect visitors to the event to fill hotel and motel rooms from Waterville to Portland. Doherty noted hotel rooms are sold out in Augusta and the surrounding communities, and Lewiston-Auburn hotels are reaching out to Portland because they are sold out.

“It’s a great economic boost for our hotels that are still making up for COVID,” Doherty said.

Michael Hall, executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, said visitors were expected to arrive in great numbers beginning Thursday and continuing into the weekend.


Now in the midst of one of the strongest tourism seasons to date, Hall said downtown shop owners have noted since May an increasing number of out-of-state license plates and rental cars in Augusta. And now, in the days leading up to the Ironman 70.3, he said the business owners are excited to see the more people in the city.

Trucks with supplies fill a lot Wednesday in Augusta for the Ironman 70.3 triathlon, set for Sunday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Sheila Brennan Nee, director of the Maine Sports Commission, routinely works to promote the state as a four-season destination for sports tourism.

“I am so impressed with the Augusta chamber and the Waterville chamber and the work they do,” Brennan Nee said. “They have really lifted that region.”

Brennan Nee said many residents might not understand what hosting the event means, balancing the temporary road closures or detours with the spending that will accompany the event.

“They just drive by and see the street is closed for an hour,” she said. “They don’t think about it because it’s not their world.”

Bicycle racks stand Thursday at Capitol Park for the Ironman 70.3 triathlon, set for Sunday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The impact of the Ironman 70.3 will not be limited to this year. Doherty said the event has committed to be in the capital region for three years, so officials are planning to capitalize on the competition’s attraction for another couple of years.

“One of the things that it’s important to stress is that everyone who is involved is not only committed to making it go well. We want it to come back,” said Keith Luke, economic development director for the city of Augusta. “It’s a signature-level event that exists not only on the local or regional level. It’s a national event, and it puts the city of Augusta on the map for all the right reasons.”

Luke said one of the takeaways for Augusta from the Ironman 70.3 is that people will realize the city is convenient to other areas, including Bar Harbor, Sugarloaf and Boothbay Harbor, where lodging is often booked at busier times of the year.

“It’s a convenient jumping-off spot for so many things that people will want to do in the state of Maine on a year-round basis,” Luke said. “There’s tremendous value in that.”

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