Iditarod says new burled arch will be in place for '25 race after current finish line arch collapses

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — There will be a new burled arch over the finish line to welcome mushers in next year’s Iditarod, a race official said days after the current arch crumbled into a wood pile.

That arch, which has been used since the 2000 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, collapsed in Nome on Saturday, likely from wood rot after being exposed to the salt water and cold air blowing off the Bering Strait into the western Alaska coastal community.

“The need for a new arch has been on our radar,” race spokesperson Shannon Noonan said in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“Race Director Mark Nordman has been working with Nome Mayor John Handeland on the commission of the reconstruction of the new arch to ensure we have a new arch for Iditarod 2025,” she said.

The arch wasn’t always over the finish line, which had an inauspicious beginning. According to the Iditarod website, legend has it someone sprinkled Kool-Aid crystals across the ice for a finish line for the very first race in 1973. A year later, two men each held a paper plate with the words “The” on one and “End” on the other.

Musher Red “Fox” Olson felt the finish line needed something more permanent and spent about 500 hours constructing the arch that weighed 5,000 pounds. It was in place for the 1975 race.

Olson’s original arch was damaged in 1999 when it was being moved off Front Street, where the finish line lies a half block from the sea, after the race.

A new arch was built in time for the 2000 race, but weather took its toll over the years on it, as well. It required major work in 2013.

Noonan said the replacement arch used the posts from the original 1975 sign to keep it aloft. It’s not know what the condition of the support posts were after the collapse, and social media photos show one on the ground and the other still standing.

Handeland gathered pieces of the sign to safekeeping and encouraged people to return any wood pieces they might have taken as souvenirs.

The city plans to hang the second arch below the original in the city’s recreation center. Meanwhile, a city post on social media says people are out scouting for the perfect tree to be the third burled arch.

The Iditarod, the world’s most famous sled dog race, begins with a ceremonial start in Anchorage the first Saturday in March. The official start is the following day just north in the community of Willow, and the winner of the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) race reaches Nome about nine days later.

Musher Dallas Seavey won this year’s race, his record-breaking sixth victory. The race was marked by the deaths of three dogs during the competition.