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Front Page » January 24, 2008 » The Business Journal » Taking the plunge...
Published 2,401 days ago

Taking the plunge...


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Competitors in the Scofield Triathlon compete in the swimming part of the competition during August of last year. The event also includes biking and running as well.

For Burke Priest, it wasn't a hard decision.

Taking the plunge seemed natural.

One day while at his cabin in Bolotas subdivision on the shore of Scofield Reservoir one of his neighbors asked him if he had seen those "crazy athletes" who were swimming in the lake, biking and then running a long ways all in one go. What his friend was talking about was the Scofield Triathlon, and once he saw it he was hooked.

Always having been athletic, he and his wife had been looking for a new sport to revitalize their life and their health. And after they saw what was being done that day, they decided it was for them.

But it also became a business. Upon discussions with the director of that years triathlon, he found out that person was leaving and that the event was waning a little.

Burke, one of the owners of Summit Honda in Park City, realized that the event needed to be run like a business, and with his background, and a compatriot in friend Justin Jones of Salt Lake, he talked to the powers that be and it was born; the Scofield Triathlon in a new form and built in the image of a private business.

"Putting this together refreshed my business techniques," said Priest who will be presenting the event for the third year in a row. "It reminded me that you have to be the best at what you do and that you must present a great product if you want people to show up."

In the last year before Priest had taken the event over, participant numbers had dwindled below 100. Last summer's event attracted 325 and he has a target of 500 for this year.

"This is year three, and we hope to turn the corner on profitability," he stated. "We finally broke even on it last year."

Sometimes taking a business proposition that has been sinking is harder to turn around than one that is just putting down roots for the first time. But for Priest the challenge and the competition to get the triathlon back on tract was too attractive to ignore.

"We started out just like anyone should with a new business venture," he stated. "At the time we had five partners, we hired a lawyer and developed articles of operation."

So what started out as a way to get in shape and vie for competition has now turned into a passion, both from the perspective of being a business owner and a competitor. And competitiveness is in his spirit. Priest was a professional jet ski competitor for years, travelling all over the United States.

Priest is sold on the fact that the Scofield area is one of the prime sites for a triathlon in the world; and it may be the very best place in the United States. On top of the fact it may be a great place to compete, it may eventually turn into a training site for some of the best known triathletes.

"There aren't many places where you can ride a bike for miles and miles and only see a few cars," he said. "And with the waterway, if we can work with the state parks, there are also few places where you don't have to avoid boats all the time."

That "work" includes the possibility of an area of the lake bouyed off for just swimmers so they can train. That hasn't happened yet but the partners are in talks with the state about it. However the credentials for the venue are outstanding.

"Marcel Vifian, the former national triathlon champion says that this is one of the best triathlon sites he has seen," stated Priest. "We intend on making it the best event in the state too."

While being a triathlete in Utah is a bit unusual, around other parts of the nation it is very popular; and in fact it is growing faster than most other sports. And that trend could put Carbon County in the international spotlight.

"The state has been a little behind on this, but the big event in St. George attracts a lot of athletes," said Priest. "This could do the same."

Priest projects the day when he and his partners will need to cap the event at 1000 people.

The event has grown largely because of networking and good business procedures. Advertising the event and getting people to participate has been a matter of passing the word.

"Advertising this has been important," said Priest. "We needed to give people a reason why this race is better. We have a lot of competition out there."

To do that the organizers have used national websites for triathletes, print ads in biking, running and swimming publications, and of course from year to year a mailing list composed of past competitors.

"There is also a magazine just about triathletes in Utah called Utah Trihive," said Priest. "You need to target your market with an event like and be sure the word is going to the right people."

The race was held last year in August, but this year it will be in July again as it was when it began, July 19 to be exact.

"The business plan has been simple," stated Priest. "This year we hope for the 500 people at $75 a piece, plus our sponsorships."

Priest says the group envisions a super trianthlon event within the regular competition where swimmers will have to swim from the island in the middle of the reservoir to the shore, ride bikes from there to Electric Lake over Eccles Canyon and then run 10 miles.

For the uninitiated, trianthlons are all the rage, with them popping up all over the place including the Battle at Soldier Hollow, the Blue Mountain Canyonlands triathlon, the Timp Triathlon Club meet, the St. George Triathlon, and ones in Cache Valley, near Jordenelle Reservoir, in the Ogden Valley and many others.

"It is growing so much and like in all small businesses there may be a move to consolidation some day," stated Priest. "The more races you can have under one umbrella the more efficient they are. The more money you can save and make."

Priest's group recently combined with another large triathlon to buy t-shirts together and he said they saved a bundle of money on them compared to when they have purchased them alone.

"As with all businesses I see the possibility of consolidation taking place," he said. "The day may come when 10 triathlons in the state are run by one group or company."

For now though, Priest loves running the Scofield Triathlon and loves competing in others when he can. Priest's wife, Nicole, is a family doctor in Salt Lake and he says the workout they both get from practicing the skills in the sport supports many other things in their life for them.

"The whole thing has helped us to utilize our cabin for the purpose of exercise, it has reinforced our athletic skills and has helped us to get to know more people," he states.

He also says that his wife is able to use the fact she is so fit in her practice to reinforce that fitness is important to her patients.

It's the perfect mix of business and pleasure for Priest, and taking that first plunge into the water in an event is a new experience, just like running the event itself.


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January 24, 2008
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