Iditarod loses support of hotel that was race headquarters


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – The hotel that has served for nearly three decades as the Anchorage-based headquarters for the world’s most famous sled dog race will end its association with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race next year.

The Lakefront Anchorage Hotel will still be race head- quarters for this year’s race and then step away, hotel manager John Bruce and Iditarod Trail Committee Chief Operations Officer Chas St. George told the Anchorage Daily News.

The hotel’s owners, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, announced the change in a statement Wednesday, a day before the race’s biggest critic, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was expected to protest at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel Chicago to denounce the company’s support of the Iditarod.

PETA held a protest outside the Anchorage hotel last year. Bruce said pressure from PETA was not part of the hotel’s decision to end its association with the Iditarod. Instead, he said the pandemic has been costly to the business.

Hotel guests who would normally attend the race didn’t travel during the pandemic and didn’t offset the cost of the hotel’s discounts to support race events.

“I think this pandemic has affected the hospitality industry probably the most out of any industry, and it was just that,” Bruce said.

The annual race will have its fan-friendly ceremonial start March 5 in Anchorage, with the real race kicking off the next day in Willow, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north.

The hotel is where mushers register for the Iditarod and where competitors and fans base their Anchorage stays at discounted rates. It also serves as a holding site for dogs dropped from the race.

The hotel chain is the latest to ends its association with the race, though it was not an official sponsor.

ExxonMobil, Alaska Airlines and Chrysler, through its Anchorage dealership, all ended their support of the race in recent years, joining Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Wells Fargo. None cited PETA’s protests, which at times included picketers at some company headquarters, as a reason for dropping financial support for the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) race. The animal rights organization says the Iditarod is cruel to dogs.

On Wednesday, PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman lauded the news about the Anchorage hotel, saying the “champagne corks are popping around the world.”

“PETA can now turn its attention to the shrinking number of sponsors that are still willing to bankroll a race that runs dogs to their deaths,” Reiman said in a statement.

Hilcorp Alaska, an oil company, and its affiliate Harvest Midstream, GCI and Donlin Gold continue to be the race’s top sponsors, according to its website.