Events likely to draw new crowd to SH

Scott Swanson

Two large-scale athletic events are expected to draw top athletes from around the nation to Sweet Home this summer.

The United States Masters Swimming national championship, scheduled for July 2 at Foster Lake, will bring together some 250 of the best non-scholastic distance swimmers, many from the Northwest, to Lewis Creek Park, where a one-mile cable course has been installed.

Then, on Sept. 10-11, the Best in the West Triathlon Festival will be held, also based at the park, drawing an expected 600-some triathletes for three races to be held over the two-day event.

Brian Hoffman, economic development director for the Sweet Home Economic Development Group, said he expects the events to have a “substantial” positive impact on the community.

“An event like this can drive the economy,” he said. “We’re bringing a different demographic to visit Sweet Home and hopefully enjoy Sweet Home and come back. There are a lot of principles here that the Jamboree represents.”

Swimming Championships, July 2

Bob Bruce, of the Central Oregon Masters Swimmers in Bend, said the club went through a two-year process to get a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a cable line – a series of posts extending from the Lewis Creek Park beach into the water, which will be used to hold a cable that will mark the course for the swimmers at the championship.

Bruce, who is directing the competition, said he has held “tiny” open-water swimming events for 50 to 60 people at Foster in four of the last six years to get a feel for how the park would work for a larger competition.

“I ran those out of the back of my car,” he said. “I won’t be doing this that way. This is a way bigger scale.”

Bruce said the fact that he was able to secure the national championships at Foster for this year and 2012 helped him get approval from the Corps.

“We really doubled up here,” he said.

The championship event will be part of a four-race series that will be held on the quarter-mile course

He said Foster is ideal for a distance course because of the lake’s topography near Lewis Creek.

“One of the the good things about that particular place is that the bottom is only 10 to 13 feet below the actual surface,” he said. The anchors, visible above the surface along the west edge of the beach, are essentially 55-gallon drums filled with cement that hold sleeves into which posts will be inserted to support the cable.

Bruce said the club originally proposed permanent pilings but the corps nixed that idea.

“It’s unique,” he said. “Nobody else in the country has got one quite like this.”

The course was installed “one nasty, rainy day in February” by 16 Bend club members.

He said that, after holding smaller swims at Foster for several years, organizers became convinced that the lake was the best option for open-water swimming because of its location relatively near the I-5 corridor and the fact that camping is close at hand and lodging is not far away, in Albany.

“Lewis Creek Park is the best in the state for what we wanted to do,” Bruce said. “That’s why we, here in Bend, 100 miles away, decided four or five years ago that Foster Lake was the place to do this.”

He said support from the community has been strong, particularly from County Parks Director Brian Carroll who “has been behind us since the first day.” He said he is tapping into community resources for most of the competition’s needs, including food, Dumpsters and other supplies.

For more on the Masters Swimming events, visit and click on “Foster Lake Cable Swims.”

Best In the West Triathlon Festival

The two-day festival, Sept. 10-11, will include sprint, half-Iron and Olympic-length events, all based out of Lewis Creek Park.

Director Blair Bronson, who is organizing the event as a project to complete his degree at Oregon State University, said he chose the area because he and other triathletes like to use Foster Lake as an open-water swim venue and the area offers everything triathletes need – camping, “community support and beautiful scenery.

“It’s a beautiful area to swim in,” he said. “That time of year, the water temperature is just about perfect for a race like this.”

Competition divisions include overall, age-group, relay, club/team and collegiate.

As with the distance swim, local campgrounds are a big draw.

Bronson, who has competed in triathlons in all three categories offered in the festival, said he chose the date because camping will be more available the week after the official summer season has ended, and it will bring a sizable number of people to the area, extending the tourist season for one more week.

The sprint (600-meter swim, 14-mile bike ride and 5K run) and Half-Iron (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run) will be on Sept. 10, and the Olympic-length event (1.5-mile swim, 40K bike ride and 10K run) will take place on Sept. 11.

Clinics and information sessions will offered for those interested in trying the sport, he said. For more information on that, visit He said he will also need volunteers and will have sign-up information on the Web site soon.

Bronson said he anticipates approximately 200 contestants in each of the three events, and he’s hoping they’ll be back.

“If we can get a big number in the sprint, doing the open-water swim, hopefully next year they’ll come back and tackle the Olympic distance,” he said.

Bronson said there aren’t many triathlon events like the one he is planning in the Northwest and none later in the year than his.

“I’d like to make it an annual event,” he said – “something the community of Sweet Home and the community in the Northwest can look forward to.”

Courses are still tentative, he said, noting that he’s interested to see how the distance swim course works out for the Bend club.

“It depends on the water levels, how the masters swim course looks,” he said. “I want to see it in action as soon as possible. What the final product looks like will depend on how things develop.”

He’s also pondering whether to include Berlin Road between Pleasant Valley and McDowell Creek roads in the higher-level bike courses.

“I’m just wondering if it would be safe enough for inexperienced riders,” he said.

Hoffman said multi-day events, such as the triathlon, in particular “get people into our community and they recognize what kind of assets we have. What a great demographic for our community.

“The more we can partner with the county parks and provide activities and recreational events such as these is really the direction I’d like to go in the future. Without the county parks it wouldn’t happen. These events are good for the economy. They really are.”