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Augusta gets ready for first Half Ironman

News 12 at 6 o'clock, September 22, 2009

AUGUSTA---Augusta's first Half-Ironman Competition is expected to be a big hit this weekend. You can catch the thousands of athletes all over, as they swim in the Savannah, bike through Aiken County, then run in downtown Augusta.

The expected economic impact could mean millions.

More than 3300 people will be jumping into the Savannah River this weekend as part of the competition. And those athletes will be doing more than pumping their muscles--they'll also be pumping money into the city.

Pam Clifton, owner of Beamie's on the River, is excited about the competition. "Any events we can get that they put on down here, we're very thankful for," she said.

Her restaurant is pretty much in the middle of the action. And with an expected 5000 people either competing or watching the event, she's hoping to reap the benefits.

The Augusta Sports Council says lots of businesses will feel the economic impact.

"A premature estimate was around $2.5 million," said executive director Tammy Stout. "However, we did not bank on all these training groups that were coming to town in advance."

Stout says a dozen hotels are sold out, including the Marriott. And while downtown should be booming this weekend, Stout hopes the event will have a lasting effect. It's the second-largest ironman event in the world.

"For Augusta to host an Ironman event is really great from a marketing perspective," she said. "The Ironman brand is the Masters in golf."

And just like Masters Week, Pam will have lots of extra hands on deck: "We hope to sell lots of food and alcohol and hope everybody will have a good time and visit us."

Although this is the first year Augusta's hosting the competition, it won't be the last. There's actually a three-year contract, so you can look forward to a lot more throughout the years.

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