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While the Wildflower races themselves will feature the same challenging swim, bike and run courses, the management will be rearranged. Founder Terry Davis and co-race director Colleen Bousman will direct the race and lead many of the long-time Tri-California operations staff. But this time around, Davis and Bousman will not serve as owners. They sold ownership to Denver-based Motiv Sports, which also owns and partners with 28 running events and three triathlons.
Under the new arrangement, Davis and Bousman will receive what they term “a fair and reasonable fee” to manage the event, and will receive a shareholder stake in Motiv and a share of the profits of the Motiv organization.
Chris Colón, the president of Motiv, said, “When Motiv Sports invested in the Wildflower Triathlon, we brought much greater financial backing. We are taking on all the expenses from the event. And we are taking on all the financial downside – and the upside.”
Colon added, “From an operational perspective, Terry and Colleen will be running this race as usual. So their standard of success and great reputation will still be at the event. We are going to add around the fringes in terms of different experiences we are going to add. We will also add some marketing and PR firepower to the event.”
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Davis said that initially he had reservations about the proposal. “Obviously if you built something and it is in your sole possession for 34 years, you have a possessory feeling about it. Yeah, there was concern with that. But it didn't last very long.” Why not? “The upside is I’ve got to have some way to have the event continue beyond me. I am almost 70 years old. So, I won’t be doing it another 20 years. I would like to see it around for a long time. It is almost impossible for independent race directors these days to compete on a financial basis against the Ironmans and the Rock and Rolls.”
Davis explained that circumstances drove the change: First came the drought and the financial pressures that came with it. “On the first year, I thought, ok we can ride this out. But it actually cost more to put on the event during the drought because of the additional cost of building a different start area and the extra transportation costs. And we could not overcome the perception that there was no water in the lake. Every time we would put out some information that we had enough water for a changed course, the state of California and the media would say, ‘All the lakes are dry.’ We could not fight that. When it came to last year, I could not put my family and my house and everything I owned at risk.”
Before the snowpack and rains filled up the reservoir earlier this year, Davis said “I personally was already looking for some type of exit plan and I wanted to get involved in some company I felt good about. Motiv is an up and coming company. They are doing a lot in running, and they wanted to be more involved in multisport. And they were totally, absolutely excited about being involved in Wildflower. Many of the people in their company had competed at Wildflower and had great things to say about it.”
Adding to this decision were some profound deeply personal factors. “The motivation for this decision goes back further that the drought,” he said. “It goes back to when I lost my son Nick [who died in a motorcycle accident in January 2013]. That hit me really hard. Then having the drought come on top of that, it has been a long five years. It changed and reformed what my desires are now – to do more with my church, do more as a servant of God. And to be able to do that I have to be doing less with the event itself and the Tri California organization. And this just seemed like it is a great opportunity and I feel really good about it.”
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Another key to Davis’s acceptance to the offer was the local focus of Motiv. “I liked the way they wanted to keep the local focus, wanted to preserve the heritage of the event. Every time we talked was about wanting to maintain the history the event and even adding things to make it better. I also liked what they could contribute with the traditional media and social media and those types of things.”
Colón said that Motiv will add to the “experiential” aspect of Wildflower, but did not specify what that meant. But Davis offered some thoughts: “Wildflower is already experiential. It’s not a triathlon where you just come to a race, you get up in the morning, you do the race and you leave. Wildflower is a true destination event for the outdoors with its expos and entertainment and the camping. That makes it different than any other triathlon in the world. We might add a 10k run, standup paddleboard events, a swimming event. We want to upgrade music so people can come there just for that aspect if they want to. We want to create an even better experience not only for competitors but for the children, the spouses, the parents, the friends and the relatives. It is truly a reunion for many people.”
Colón explained the mission statement of his organization differed from the growing corporate nature of many multisport and running organizations. “As I looked into the endurance industry, particularly in running and triathlon, I saw a bunch of people who had great reputations and great properties who needed help in the areas of marketing and sponsorship. Motiv in its simplest form is gathering all these people together under one umbrella in areas where they need assistance.”
Motiv has spent two years identifying and partnering with 28 running races and triathlons that are cornerstones of tradition in their communities including the Long Beach Marathon, Surf City Marathon & Half Marathon, Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon, Portland Shamrock Run and The Philly Love Run.
“When we acquired the Long Beach Marathon [Olympic pole vault gold and silver medalist] race director Bob Seagren came on board,” said Colon. “When we acquired the Shamrock Run in Portland, Steve and Desiree Hamilton, who ran the race for close to 40 years, came on board. When we acquired the Philly Love Run we of course kept long time race directors Michele and Larry Redrow, who also run the New Jersey State Triathlon. Michael Epstein is on board with his Nautica Malibu Triathlon. As we acquire unique events we need these people in place because they have the knowledge and the reputation and experience in the locality and the industry. In return we contribute the expertise at Motiv Sports to help with sponsorship, marketing and operational support.”
Davis said that he had not made a decision whether or not to bring pack the Tri Cal Pacific Grove Triathlon and the Tri Cal Alcatraz triathlon. “We haven’t addressed that yet,” said Davis. “Our main focus is to get Wildflower back. And then we will see where that goes. What’s happened is when we had to cancel Wildflower this year, we had to eliminate all our Tri Cal staffing. Without that staff we weren’t able to do any of the other events. Once we finished up Alcatraz last year, the Nike Women’s Marathon also went away and that was another hurdle we had to get over. And that was when we had to let all our staff go.”
Davis said that when Wildflower is up and running, he will consider whether to put on Pacific Grove and Alcatraz with Motiv or on his own.