News 12 This Morning / Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The city of Augusta is gearing up for a big weekend. It's the ESI Ironman 70.3 and Augusta's is the biggest in the nation.
The Ironman consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.
On Thursday, bike racks already filled the field near the riverfront marina in preparation for Augusta's second biggest sports event of the year.
"This is the weekend, this is the week," said Brinsley Thigpen with the Augusta Sports Council. "It's huge, it's exciting, it's fun, it's big."
Augusta's ESI Ironman 70.3 is growing every year.
"We're expecting the biggest numbers ever, the most athletes ever," Thigpen said.
"We've got approximately 3,500 athletes for this year, which is the largest 70.3 in the United States," said Race Director AJ Sills.
This is the fourth year the event is being held in the Garden City.
"We have two more years that it's definitely coming back to Augusta, but we want it to come back year after year," Thigpen said. "It's such a positive impact into our community."
The biggest impact is economic. This weekend's event is expected to bring around $4 million to the area.
"Between local gas stations all the way to bike shops, the impact really embraces the entire city," Sills said.
They're staying in our hotels, they're eating in our restaurants, they're filling their cars up with gas at our gas stations, they're at the grocery store," Thigpen said.
Around 10,000 people will fill the city on Sunday and it's that support that race officials say make this event a success.
"We found that the support from the city of Augusta is overwhelmingly positive, and with that relationship, it's really kinda hit the nail right on the head and made this event and this market one of the premiere events," Sills said.
The athletes are already heading into town. Cyclists will be out on the roads all weekend long, so drivers need to make sure they are paying extra attention.
"Please be safe, be courteous, be aware," Sills said. "There's a lot of them out there."
Over 1,000 volunteers from the community are needed to put on this event. Event organizers are still looking for around 150 volunteers to help with the cycling course on Sunday. If you are interested in helping, visit ironmanaugusta.com for more information.
Also, over the next four days, they will be raising the river up about a foot. They're doing that so the swimmers won't hit the weeds in the river while they are swimming. After the event, they will lower it back down again.
The boat ramp at the Riverfront Marina will be closed Saturday and Sunday. The westbound lane of Broad Street between 8th and 9th streets will close at 11 p.m. on Thursday and remain closed until 6 p.m. on Sunday. Gordon Highway ramps will be closed at Broad and Bay streets from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday and the 5th Street bridge will be closed from 4 to 10 a.m. on Sunday.