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False start for annual triathlon?

February 27, 2006|By Kelly Strodl

One of the longest running triathlons in the country may not return to Newport Beach this year.

Before its 29th anniversary, the Kring and Chung Newport Beach Triathlon may hit the wall as organizers and city officials tussle over the race's traffic plans.

Jack Caress, director of Pacific Sports, thecompany that has run the race since its inception in 1978, said obtaining new course plans is expensive. Besides, he noted that his company has a working traffic plan from previous races. But city officials have complained about how the race has negatively affected traffic on race day in the past and are making new demands.

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Pacific Sports also runs the Long Beach Triathlon, The City of Los Angeles Triathlon, the Huntington Beach Triathlon and the Catalina Marathon. Caress said he was certain city officials have deliberately worked against the race by making new requests and denying other plans.

"The hurdles we have been made to jump through have made it more and more difficult to facilitate the race," Caress said. "I don't think we are being treated fairly for an event that has worked for 28 years."

Caress claimed that city officials met with everyone involved in the race last year except Pacific Sports representatives and that City Manager Homer Bludau said he did not want the triathlon to return to the city again.

Bludau said he was concerned about the race's effect on traffic each year, including last year's difficulty rerouting traffic around Jamboree Road south of San Joaquin Hills Road.

"It isn't just a personal opinion," Bludau said. "We have the responsibility to balance the needs of the community. This is a real time-consuming event not only for staff but for the community."

Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, an occasional triathlon participant, said city officials have to concern themselves with more than just the race.

"We welcome events to our community but we also have requirements to make sure traffic runs smoothly," Daigle said. "We apply uniform standards. We're not asking anything more at this event than any other."

Pacific Sports was given ample time to submit a revised traffic proposal, said Marie Knight, director of the city's recreation and senior services. The company submitted incomplete plans, and it's the company's responsibility to prepare traffic plans, she added.

"We shouldn't have to take taxpayers' money to help a business," she said. "A lot of outside businesses want to do their events in Newport because it's a beautiful place."

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