CLERMONT, FL-It could be a case of the dog biting the hand that feeds it, but retailers in this south Lake County city of 8,600 permanent residents say they are giving that hand more than they are getting back. Clermont is 25 miles west of Downtown Orlando and is considered one of the area’s top bedroom communities.

Shopkeepers are criticizing promoters of the 10th annual Great Floridian Triathlon for not generating the customer traffic of past events and for paying only nominal fees to the city for use of public facilities. The promoters say they generated at least $1 million to the business community during last month’s event and are paying their fair share of expenses associated with the triathlon.

At the root of the criticism is one indisputable factor: a lack of sufficient hotel rooms or restaurant seats to house and cater to 875 athletes and their families arriving from worldwide locations. The immediate Clermont area, from Four Corners to Ocoee, FL has about 1,000 hotel rooms. It could use double that number for the event. But Downtown Clermont itself doesn’t have even 500 hotel rooms that would keep guests shopping and spending in the central business district.

The event needed a dining hall that could accommodate 1,200 guests for the event. Clermont doesn’t have a restaurant or two that could house that number so the attraction’s promoters moved festivities and athlete sign-ins from Downtown Clermont to the Summer Bay Resort on U.S. 191 outside the city. That move upset central business district retailers as well.

As for criticism that CFT/Sports, the company that runs the triathlon, isn’t paying its fair share of service fees for public utilities, the company points out its annual payroll of $200,000 includes $30,000 for payment of city police officers to work the event on non-city time. The firm also pays the city $250 for use of a public park but this year the city waived the fee because of the event’s projected economic impact on the community.

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