As Ironman prepares for its second triathlon in Delaware, city officials and business owners are hoping the event's economic benefits continue to grow.
The World Triathlon Corp. launched Ironman 70.3 Ohio -- the lone Ironman event in the state -- Aug. 21, 2016. The race returns to the city for its second running July 30.
While thousands of athletes and spectators descended on the city the day of the event, Delaware Economic Development Director Sean Hughes said the benefits for downtown Delaware businesses were somewhat muted.
Hughes said a survey of downtown business owners completed after the event showed most viewed the weekend of the triathlon as "more or less neutral for them."
Hughes said he views the city's lack of lodging options, especially downtown, as partially to blame. He said athletes and their family and friends probably gave more of a boost to areas in central Ohio with plenty of hotel space, such as the Polaris area.
"I'm sure their hotels saw an uptick and their restaurants did, too," he said.
Dan Negley, owner of downtown's Breakaway Cycling, said he did see a bump in sales from competitors making last-minute purchases.
"We certainly could tell there were triathletes in town," he said.
Negley acknowledged his business' story from last year is not likely the norm. He said he hopes athletes and spectators spend more time downtown this year and in years to come.
"My hope is that some other businesses see some benefits," he said.
Hughes said two factors may help keep visitors in town in the future.
For one, he said he's talked with multiple developers who have discussed the possibility of building a new hotel in the city.
"We have a tremendous amount of interest (from developers) right now," he said.
Hughes said he thinks hosting the annual triathlon makes the city more attractive to potential hotel developers.
"They really are looking at what are the things that are going to draw people from outside your community into your community," he said.
Hughes said downtown businesses also could see increased activity if Ohio Wesleyan University lets athletes stay on its campus.
After last year's event, city and university leaders asked Ironman officials to shift the race to earlier in the summer.
University spokesman Cole Hatcher said via email the original date fell on OWU's move-in weekend.
"The earlier time frame eliminates any conflict with our student move day and allows for additional parking," he said.
Hatcher said the university plans to allow event organizers to stay on campus this year with the hope of extending the same offer to athletes in 2018. He said ongoing renovation projects and a lack of a registration system prevented the university from offering rooms to competitors this year.
Beyond boosting business for downtown shops, Hughes said he thinks Ironman can play a larger economic-development role. He said it's not uncommon for CEOs and other business leaders to take part in Ironman events.
"You've got people here who are actually business decision-makers here," he said.
Hughes said it's his hope the event helps put Delaware on the map for business officials looking to expand or move their firms.