HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - The Ironman triathlon will not be coming to the Hilton Head after event officials called off the race planned for next October.
An exact reason has not been released at this time. According to the chamber of commerce, the race was supposed to generate tens of millions of dollars for the local economy, and some are disappointed the town missed out on a great opportunity.
Despite more than a year of drawing race courses and the town's effort to bring the 70.3 mile triathlon to Hilton Head, Ironman has decided to move in another direction.
"A shot to the gut," said Go Tri Sports owner Alfred Olivetti. "It was disappointing. It felt like I got punched in the gut. It hurt Hilton Head in every facet of business. It shows the world that we're not open for business."
Olivertti worked on the local operational team with Ironman officials. He said he knows exactly why race officials had a change of heart.
"There's only one reason why Ironman decided not to show up, and that is their disenchantment with our law enforcement and the lack of support by all law enforcement," Olivetti said.
Earlier this year Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner announced that he would not endorse the plans for an Ironman half triathlon because of his concern for public safety.
"I think the county should be relieved, quite frankly," said Tanner. "Especially southern Beaufort County. It would be a difficult event to host on U.S. 278. That's still my position."
Tanner said even though studies suggested the race could generate around $50 million for the local economy, the risk outweighed the potential award.
"Revenues were talked about, which I disagree with," said Tanner. "I figured there was a lot of fluff on how much money was talked about coming to Hilton Head and Bluffton. I never bought into that in the beginning."
Regardless of how much money was lost, Olivetti still thinks the town dropped the ball, and it is unlikely Ironman will be looking to come back to Hilton Head.
"I can say with pretty good confidence that a sporting event of top tier quality like Ironman will not come to Hilton Head until there are attitude changes within law enforcement or personnel changes within law enforcement," said Olivetti.
Ironman announced today that the race that was supposed to held here will be held in Wilmington, NC instead.