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Port Commission Approves Agency to Stage Triathlon

August 13, 1987|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

In an effort to attract international attention to the Port of Los Angeles, the Board of Harbor Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to set up a nonprofit corporation to stage an annual international triathlon in the harbor area.

The commissioners also set aside $100,000 as seed money for the corporation, which will be called the Worldport LA International Triathlon Corp. Port officials said they hope to hold the first triathlon in October, 1988, several weeks before the sport's most well-known event, the Ironman competition, is held in Hawaii.

The triathlon is a three-event endurance race that involves swimming, bicycling and running. According to research by a port consultant, 1.2 million athletes participated in triathlons worldwide in 1985, and the annual Hawaii contest alone generated about $4.2 million for the economy there.

"This kind of event will spotlight the port and show that this is not only a great place to do business but also a great place to vacation," said Steven Resnick, the port's director of marketing, in an interview. "It shows what this little corner of our city has to offer the world."

A committee of port officials and local business and community leaders began exploring the triathlon idea last winter, Resnick said. The port also hired Race Pace Promotions, an Orange County company that organizes competitions throughout the Los Angeles area, to determine whether a harbor-area triathlon would be successful.

Herb Massinger of Race Pace Promotions said in an interview that city officials in Los Angeles, Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates have reacted favorably to the proposed race. The running and swimming portions of the contest would take place within the City of Los Angeles, but the 40-kilometer bicycle event would include all three cities.

Sponsors and organizers of other triathlons across the country have also embraced the idea, said Massinger, who predicted the event would attract about 1,400 participants.

"Let's face it, in Southern California the attractive thing about it is the health, the fitness and the life style," he said. "This gives the port a chance to showcase it."

Port officials said local business leaders are particularly enthusiastic about the triathlon because of its reputation as a "yuppie sport." The competitions, which began about a decade ago, have attracted a following of young professionals who, according to marketing studies, spend a lot of money training for the events.

'Premier Event'

While there are dozens of triathlons in Southern California communities each year, Massinger said there is no annual contest that serves as the "premier event" for the area. Once formed, the corporation would begin negotiations with the Triathlon Federation, a group that sanctions races nationwide, to have the Los Angeles event designated as an official national contest, he said.

Port officials, however, expect the contest to attract international athletes and international attention. Resnick said steamship lines that carry cargo to and from the Port of Los Angeles will be asked to sponsor participants from their countries. Port officials will also seek other corporate sponsors, he said.

"This will assist in the worldwide marketing of the port," Resnick told the harbor commissioners.

Under the plan approved by the commissioners, the triathlon corporation will have until February, 1988, to raise at least $100,000 from companies and other private sponsors. If the group cannot raise the money, the proposal would be dropped and the port would be refunded what is left of its $100,000 contribution, Resnick said.

Proceeds from the triathlon--from entry fees and sponsorships--would be donated to community charitable groups, such as local boys clubs, drug-abuse counseling programs and homeless relief groups. The actual recipients of the money would be determined by the corporation's board of directors, which will consist of representatives from the port, the San Pedro and Wilmington Chambers of Commerce, the San Pedro YMCA, the San Pedro Revitalization Corp. and harbor-area Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores.

Dennis McCarbery, a Flores aide who attended a recent triathlon organizing meeting, said the councilwoman will endorse the event if its organizers gain the support of residents and they draw up a comprehensive traffic and parking plan.

Concern for Traffic Problems

"If it doesn't seem like it will benefit the community, the councilwoman would react much the same as she did to the Beach Scene," said McCarbery, referring to Flores opposition to a second city-sponsored festival at Cabrillo Beach. Residents complained that the Beach Scene last summer caused traffic and parking problems. The city has since canceled plans to hold a second festival this summer.

The triathlon would consist of a two-kilometer swim at Cabrillo Beach, a 40-kilometer bike race starting at the beach, going through San Pedro, Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates, and ending with a 10-kilometer run through the Ports o' Call and Cabrillo Marina areas of San Pedro.

None of the proposed routes would include the other harbor community, Wilmington, although city and port officials said proceeds would benefit Wilmington charities. Wilmington has no beach, and Massinger said it is too far away from Cabrillo Beach for the 10-kilometer run.

As for the bicycle event, he said the hilly Palos Verdes Peninsula provides a much more challenging and picturesque route than Wilmington--particularly for television crews.

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