HONOLULU (KHON2) — The IRONMAN World Championship is returning to Kona after a three-year hiatus, and this year, it is double the competition with a second day added to the race. Although some in the community were taken by surprise, they said they were not counting on dealing with an extra day of traffic and road closures.
It is a boost of roughly $50 million injected into Hawaii County’s economy, the IRONMAN World Champion drawing more athletes this year compared to others with about 5,000 athletes from all over the world.
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This IRONMAN World Championship Event Director Diana Bertsch said the second day of the race is a result of more athletes qualifying for the Kona IRONMAN World Championship during its three-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bertsch said, “We did host the 2021 Ironman World Championships in St. George Utah. However, the athlete’s dream of coming to Kona, this is where they want to cross the finish line.”
But for people who live and work in the area, the race also comes with closures of important roadways. Kuakini Highway will be closed during the morning on Thursday and Saturday, the days of the race.
Krua Thai Cuisine sits right in the middle of the action. The restaurant owner Ailyn Ounyoung said the event will disrupt their business hours. They decided to close during both race days for lunch and only open for dinner, but she is not sure if customers will be showing up.
“We truly appreciate their ability to do with the Iron Man, I have nothing against it,” Ounyoung said. “It’s just that the perspective of the concept of closing, you know, I think for us, we lose a portion of our revenue throughout the day.”
Ounyoung said they are used to closing on the Saturday of IRONMAN in past years, but said the two-day race also affects their worker’s hours.
She said, “This is not just our personal revenue, but this is also for our staff and our staff, also with the situation right now. Everything, everything matters, the planning and the timing matters.”
Other business owners in the community also said that the second of the race came with little notice and they wished they had more of a say during the planning process.
IRONMAN for its part has already announced next year’s championship will also be held over two days. Sharing the message a year in advance.
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“Regarding the communication channels, I think that there was an incredible effort made. But yes, absolutely, I think we can always get better with whatever we do,” Bertsch said. “There’s always going to be that disruption. But there are a tremendous amount of people that embrace the events as well.”