Bruce Schoenne and Steve Brown say this year’s Challenge Penticton is going to be better than last year’s, and if they have anything to say about it, 2015 will be better still.
Schoenne and Brown were the first to announce their intention to put in a bid after the City of Penticton announced they would be looking for a private group to take over Challenge Penticton after this year’s race.
“The best opportunity for the community is local ownership,” said Schoenne, noting that he has lived in Penticton for 40 years, while Brown has been here for 33 years.
“We have been here for a long time, our interests are aligned with the community. I don’t think anything would make both of us feel more happy than to walk down the street and say we made a difference to the community by putting the event on.”
Each brings a wealth of experience to the table: Brown owns Peach City Runners, and is the current race director for Challenge Penticton, while Schoenne operates an appraisal company and was, until last Wednesday, a director of the Penticton Triathlon Race Society.
“I resigned once they made notification they were looking for expressions of interest,” said Schoenne, who wanted to avoid any possibility of conflict of interest as he and Brown prepared their bid.
Schoenne said they are being cautious that their enthusiasm for the race doesn’t cloud their economic sense, but neither seem overly concerned about the $377,000 loss incurred in the race’s first year. That’s just a single slice of the economic picture, according to Schoenne, and doesn’t take into account the economic spin off last year’s race brought into the community.
“Let’s look at the $700,000 we spent in the local community out of a million dollar budget. Now does that $377,000 look that bad?” he asked.
“Any business is a build process and to have a negative in your first year of business, honestly, it doesn’t faze me.”
“When I opened up Peach City Runners, 18 years ago, the first three years were all losses and it wasn’t until I was into my fourth year that I started to recognize some return on those investments,” said Brown. “That’s just the way it is in business.”
Schoenne and Brown both say they want to get the profile of the Penticton race back to what it was, but given changes in the market, that might not look the same as it did under Ironman.
“The marketplace has been saturated with a lot of races. What do we need to do with this event here that is actually going to make it unique and different?” asked Brown.
“We think there is going to be a different look and feel to it and we need to try and nail those things down and make it a place people want to come to.”
The ability to enter a relay team, along with the inclusion of a shorter distance race are key areas they hope to expand.
“That makes it family friendly, because now you don’t have to be some athletic god to come and do this thing, you can be someone who can ride a bit or swim a bit and you can do that,” said Brown.
“You can do that as a family, you can do that as a group of friends. Our vision is we want to get this race back to a point where it is a race that people are really wanting to come and do.”
It also plays into not going head to head against Ironman Canada in Whistler.
“The reality is we can’t and don’t have the marketing machine or the marketing dollars to compete against the M-Dot (Ironman) on that level and so the reality is that isn’t where you’re emphasis is,” said Brown.
“What you have to emphasize is what are going to do to make yours different than theirs.”
That includes not focusing their marketing on the young athlete who only wants to run the race, get an Ironman tattoo and leave.
“We’ve been thinking more that we are looking for the more mature athlete; the person that wants to involve their family or friends,” said Brown. “It’s all about choice, it’s all about setting ourselves up so we are a different choice to what an Ironman is.”
Both Brown and Schoenne have participated in the Ironman and have a passion for the Penticton race. Brown’ involvement goes back to the original society that brought Ironman to town in the 80s.
“I kind of grew up with this race, like much of this community did. My passion for it goes back to those early days in getting this event established in Penticton and then also becoming an athlete and owning a business that caters to those people,” said Brown.
“This isn’t just being done on a whim and a fancy, this is two guys with a passion for the sport and a passion for this community.”