It's official: Hilton Head Island Ironman 70.3 triathlon approved for October 2016

By Zach Murdock
Online Article Here

Time to sign up for that gym membership, because the Hilton Head Island Ironman 70.3 triathlon is officially coming.

The first of five annual autumn races will be held late October 2016.

The event -- half the length of a full, 140.6-mile Ironman event -- will include a 1.2-mile ocean swim at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa in Palmetto Dunes, a 56-mile bike route along US 278 to greater Bluffton and back (see map below), and a 13.1-mile run to a finish line in the new Shelter Cove Community Park.

Town officials approved a special event permit for the race last week, the final approval needed to finalize the event, said Bill Miles, director of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has negotiated with Ironman to bring a triathlon race to Hilton Head for a year.

Now Ironman officials are expected to name a local race director and headquarters office before opening registration for the race later this year, Miles said. Specific race registration dates have not been announced.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for the area, for the region," Miles said. "We haven't celebrated yet, but it's a terrific opportunity."

The race will be held without the endorsement of Sheriff P.J. Tanner.

He has repeatedly raised concerns about public safety and inconvenience due to the extensive lane closures that will be in place on race day along the bike portion of the route. Those could severely limit residents' ability to drive during a large portion of race day and could potentially hinder emergency response, he has said.

Elected officials at the county and town unanimously support the event. Tanner has pledged to handle traffic control and public safety for the event despite his concerns.

The event is expected to bring thousands of racers and family members to the area during the week around the race day. The chamber estimates the influx could inject $10 million into the local economy.

"It's really an opportunity for Hilton Head to shine and really get face time on an international level," town councilman Bill Harkins said.