ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - This October, the Iditarod announced its involvement in the upcoming Qrill Pet Arctic World Series. Recently Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach sat down with KTUU to discuss what this means for the future of the Iditarod.
“Let’s bring other races so we can transform the Iditarod to have more global exposure,” said Urbach.
The global racing series in 2020 includes John Beargrease in Minnesota, Femundlopet in Norway, and Volga Quest in Russia.
The new CEO stressed the importance of growing the sport of mushing, and the exposure of the Iditarod worldwide. Urbach said the move to a global format based on a joint point system is similar to other sports he’s worked with in the past like professional tennis and golf.
“The initial goal is to create exposure, what exposure does is creates more fans, and fans mean more opportunities for sponsorship,” said Urbach.
The new CEO isn't shy about his vision for the Iditarod in the coming years.
“I’ve said my goal publicly is to have a $1,000,000 prize purse in the next three years for its 50th anniversary,” Urbach said.
On top of more prize money, Urbach said he wants the Iditarod, and Arctic World Series to be covered on network television as well as an internet broadcast partner.
Dialogue with PETA
In October Urbach said he wanted to start a dialogue with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal rights organization that has long opposed the Iditarod.
Recently when Urbach was in Los Angeles for the premiere of “The Great Alaskan Race," and had a meeting with PETA at their headquarters.
“PETA has made numerous allegations that are frankly very inflammatory, and grossly inaccurate,” said Urbach. “We need to educate PETA that the Iditarod and our kennels have evolved over the years that exemplary dog care is the number one focus.”
Urbach said that both groups share the same goal of putting dog care first, and during their meeting he proposed an independent review panel. The group would made up of university-based veterinarians with no affiliation to either group looking to analyze kennels and the race.
“If there is something we can do to improve the care of our dogs, that doesn’t violate the integrity of our race we should listen,” said Urbach.
Here is a portion of a statement emailed to KTUU from PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman regarding her meeting with Urbach:
“We have not agreed to review kennel standards or rules as Rob suggests. Rather, we have agreed to have a veterinarian visit the kennels with Rob to point out the inadequacies in the ways mushers confine and treat dogs—things that are painfully obvious to most people—so that he can better understand why the race as we know it must end.”
Reiman would go on to say the group opposes the race as long as dogs are used, and suggested the Iditarod replace dogs with human cross-country skiers, endurance athletes, or snowmachines.
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