Augusta officials, downtown businesses prep for Ironman triathlon

Friday, September 27, 2019
News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC 26 at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Preparations are ongoing for the IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta triathlon this weekend across Richmond County.

Thousands are expected in the downtown area as 3,600 athletes are set to compete in the big event on Sunday. Hundreds of kids will participate in the IRONKIDS race on Saturday morning.

"I had two goals," said Nancy Knapp, who's participating in her first Ironman. "One is to not drown in the swim, and the second goal is to cross the finish line."

Knapp is 61 years old. She drove here from Louisiana for her first race.

"It's a great city, a great setting, the swim is probably the best because you can get a little push from the river. It's just a beautiful venue all around!" Knapp said.

Thousands of other athletes are thinking the same thing. Many of the athletes choose Augusta because of the ability to swim with the river current, officials say. The majority of the race is also relatively flat.

"Last year the Augusta half Ironman was the largest in North America," said Brian Graham, the CEO of the Augusta Sports Council.

The Augusta Sports Council assists organizers with the event. This year they recruited 1,600 volunteers to help. Athletes are here from 30 different countries.

But, downtown businesses are welcoming them right in their doors.
Last year's event brought a $4.8 million economic impact.

"This is the second largest event that we have downtown that brings us business, Masters week being the first," said Cody Smith, area manager Mellow Mushroom. "Ironman is second, and that's really the top two by far."

Mellow Mushroom started prepping for this week in August. He's brought in more staff and more food.

It's good business now and for the future.

"I've had people come in town who moved to Augusta, and they were telling me that they did the Ironman here and fell in love with the city," Smith said.

Everyone, even the athletes, are hoping this year is record breaking.

"I want to do my PR here, which is my personal record, so I definitely think I can make it," said Yadira Manzano-Rodriguez, an Ironman athlete from Puerto Rico. "I've been training for this."

Roads will be closed off on Broad Street from 7th to 11th Street until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. It's for the IRONKids race tomorrow morning.

Here's a list of all the road closings across Richmond County for this weekend.