TriColumbia on the Brink

The Triathlon Columbia Association, aka TriColumbia, the 30-year-old non-profit Mid-Atlantic triathlon race organization without peer in its vision and execution is on the brink of collapse. "We're trying to save a 30 year old company in one week," according to Columbia Triathlon Association board member Debra Saltz, an attorney by profession, but who has placed all aside to aid the venerable triathlon race booster. "It's become my life for the last 10 days," she said.

As of today, readers navigating to the Tricolumbia website cannot get past the home page, except to the online store, which appears to just refer to a third party seller. Maryland-area triathletes have opined on social media with rumors of embezzlement and bankruptcy. On that former charge, Ms. Saltz says, "I don't believe there was criminal embezzlement. There was not a large amount of money stolen."

Nobody currently on staff is implicated in any financial mismanagement. The organization's founder and longtime face, Rob Vigorito, left in 2012, almost a year before the board took action to fix organizational problems.

Further, Ms. Salz stated that any mismanagement is not the root cause of the problems. "Nobody took so much money it put us out of business," she said. Rather, it's the combination of bad executive decisions at a time of declining registrations, which are down across most of the organization's portfolio races. Columbia Triathlon routinely filled for years, at 2,500 registrants. It filled two years ago. Last year, according to Ms. Salz, the race had about 1,500 registrants. To date, registrations for the May race are at 982 (adjacent is Cameron Dye winning last year's Columbia Tri). Ironman Eagleman, the 70.3 race with Kona slots, sells out still. But its Rocky Gap race has not opened yet for registration, nor has Chesapeakeman. Each had down registration totals last year. Rather than 10 event weekends as has been the case in the past, the organization was contemplating just 7 or even 6 weekends in 2014.

Ms. Salz cited the proliferation of race organizations crowding the calendar with events. "Too many races. Too many companies."

What is the future of the organization? What is the future of the events this organization produces? What will happen to registration money paid in already by contestants? None of this is yet known. Ms. Salz said the organization hopes to put out a statement by the end of this week (day after tomorrow, as of this writing). "We are having financial difficulties. We're trying to figure it out," Ms. Saltz said. She is eager to field a call from someone who might, "step forward and give is a [blank]load of money."

[Editor's note: In the article above you read the phrase, "There was not a large amount of money stolen." This is a quote from Ms. Salz. But it was in the context of an interview where I asked what placed this organization in trouble. I note in Facebook comments appending to this article one possible and even logical interpretion: "So, some money was stolen." In a follow up conversation with Ms. Salz, it is clear there is no case, or allegation made, that any money was stolen. Rather, the reason the organization is teetering is not because, as has been rumored, "a large amount of money was stolen," or because someone, "took so much money it put us out of business." Please pardon the close parsing, but it seemed a relevant clarification.]