Ironman to Red Bull Rampage: Spirit of competition in Greater Zion personifies Utah as the ‘State of Sport’
St. George, UT (April 27, 2022) — Utah is known for its vast landscapes, exceptional year-round destinations and a spirit that has welcomed the world to play, compete and explore this diverse state.
In 2000, the Utah Sports Commission was created with the intent of keeping Utah’s sport and Olympic legacy alive after the Salt Lake City region hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2002. The Utah Sports Commission’s mission is to help enhance Utah’s economy, image and quality of life through the attraction, promotion and development of national and international sports, and to be a catalyst in its Olympic legacy efforts.
With world-class competitions such as the 2021 Intermountain Healthcare Ironman World Championship presented by Utah Sports Commission in May, the 2022 Intermountain Healthcare Ironman 70.3 World Championship presented by the Utah Sports Commission in October, the 20th anniversary of the Red Bull Rampage and so many other events that welcome the world to Greater Zion, southwest Utah is a major player in the “State of Sport.”
“Our first Ironman St. George took place in 2010, and it forever changed the landscape of competitive sports in southwest Utah,” said Kevin Lewis, director of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office. “With a course that showcases our diverse region, the St. George area not only illustrated it was on par with premier destinations around the world, but our community rose to the occasion to welcome athletes from around the globe with open arms. More than a decade of preparation and experience put us in a position to bring Ironman’s ultimate race to Greater Zion.”
Lewis was originally part of the team that brought Ironman to Utah in 2010. Negotiations started in 2008, and with the help of statewide partners such as the Utah Sports Commission, southwest Utah started its Ironman legacy.
“The importance of the Utah Sports Commission can’t be understated,” he said. “The Sports Commission’s experience with world-class events and its financial support are critical components in our success.”
This year, Greater Zion will host the crown jewel of Ironman competitions, the Ironman World Championship, which will be held outside of Kona, Hawaii, for the first time since the race’s inception. Together with back-to-back Ironman 70.3 World Championship events last September and this October, southwest Utah will host three Ironman World Championship competitions in 13 months. After the October race, St. George will hold the title of hosting more Ironman World Championship events than any other destination in the world.
“It’s been fun to see this journey from the beginning to where it is now,” said Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission, who also was a part of the team that originally brought Ironman to Utah. “This experience has been fulfilling for all of us. Bringing Ironman to Utah has forever changed the landscape of Greater Zion. It’s become the premier destination in the United States and the world for triathlons and international competition.”
The Utah Sports Commission is, and has been, the presenting sponsor of all Ironman World Championship events in Greater Zion.
Ironman is only one major part of southwest Utah’s competitive legacy. The destination also hosts the iconic Red Bull Rampage, which showcases the best free-ride mountain bikers in the world. The Huntsman World Senior Games has been held annually in Greater Zion since 1987 and is the largest annual, multi-sport senior competition in the world. And, the St. George Marathon has become a destination race since its inception in 1977.
“These are just a few examples of how southwest Utah really encapsulates the spirit of Utah’s State of Sport,” Robbins said. “The Sports Commission was chartered 20 years ago, and we’ve been executing on that mission ever since. We are projected to hit approximately $3 billion in economic impact to the state with the NBA All-Star Game in 2023.”
Although Utah’s Olympic legacy is tied to winter sports, the state’s ability to host year-round world-class events supports the Sports Commission’s mission.
“As we conduct more international competitions, it raises the level of exposure and image-building for the state,” Robbins said. “All of this comes back to help us with bids for the Olympics and other world-class competitions.”
Salt Lake City is among the candidates to host the 2030 or 2034 Winter Olympics and is in a dialogue phase with the International Olympic Committee, as are other cities such as Sapporo, Japan, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“Something that’s unique to Utah is the overwhelming community support and resources for hosting large sporting events,” Robbins said. “We had more volunteers than we needed for the 2002 Winter Games. Events require significant local resources, and St. George and the Greater Zion area have continually risen to the occasion to support and field volunteers to make these events a great success.”
More than 4,000 volunteers are expected to support this May’s 2021 Intermountain Healthcare Ironman World Championship presented by Utah Sports Commission.
“Our community support is second to none,” Lewis said. “It starts at the grassroots with thousands of enthusiastic volunteers, and it continues through public safety, medical and emergency services all the way to the core community leaders who dig in to help facilitate the event. The May race traverses more than half a dozen communities in Greater Zion. Each community has done a tremendous job in rallying support to make this race and so many other competitions in the region a reality.”
The community, cultural and physical landscape of Greater Zion truly embodies all the Utah Sports Commission is trying to achieve. The striking landscapes and optimistic attitudes combine to create an environment of success in an area once known for its harsh, rugged conditions. This has created a playground for people to live, work, play and explore, as well as to establish a world-class destination for competition.