Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon to bring thousands to Raleigh in 2014

ccampbell@newsobserver.comFebruary 25, 2013 

— Thousands of marathon runners from around the country are expected to descend on downtown Raleigh in April 2014 for a race that’s projected to bring about $2 million in tourism spending to the city.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane announced details of the first Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series in North Carolina on Tuesday afternoon. Held in more than 30 cities around the world, the marathon includes rock bands playing along the race course. It also features a two-day health and fitness exhibition.

The Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, a division of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, has been working on a five-year contract with race organizers for months. The Raleigh City Council approved the race in December.

“This is a real coup for Raleigh, and it keeps the momentum going on the heels of the International Bluegrass Music Association conference and the NCAA men's basketball tournament,” said Dennis Edwards, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Sports Alliance director Scott Dupree says Rock ‘n’ Roll is expected to draw about 7,500 runners in its first year; by comparison, the homegrown City of Oaks Marathon had 5,000 runners last year. Half of the participants will be from out of town, Dupree said, generating up to 5,000 hotel stays and $2 million in visitor spending.

That would make Rock ‘n’ Roll a bigger draw than Raleigh’s other new sporting event. The Ironman Triathlon will hold its first race here on June 2, with 2,500 athletes signed up to swim in Jordan Lake before biking to Raleigh and running 13.1 miles through downtown. The Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce will pay a $50,000 fee to triathlon organizers.

The tourism boosters haven’t yet announced details of their contract with Rock ‘n’ Roll, but Dupree stressed that city money won’t be used for the event. The Convention and Visitors Bureau is funded by hotel and restaurant taxes.

Rock ‘n’ Roll organizers are also still working on the race course, but Dupree said last month that it’s likely to be a “postcard route” that starts and ends downtown.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll wants to come in and showcase all the best parts of the city,” he said.

The city’s approval for Rock ‘n’ Roll sparked a debate and new policy on road races in Raleigh, in part because local race organizers complained that they aren’t offered similar prime routes and long-range scheduling.

The marathon also bumped the RunRaleigh Half Marathon 5K from its annual date. That event, organized by a Raleigh police captain, last year raised $32,000 for the Raleigh Police Memorial Foundation, SPCA of Wake County and Strong Women Organizing Outrageous Projects (SWOOP). Last week, RunRaleigh got city approval to move to October.

“It’s one of the highest producing races for charities in this area without paid sponsorship,” director Paula O’Neal said.

Critics of Rock ‘n’ Roll also expressed concerns that the race fell short of expectations when it debuted in St. Petersburg, Fla., last year. Organizers had projected up to 15,000 runners; the actual number came in at 7,000.

Dupree has said he’s confident the marathon will be a success. “We’re very careful about the events we get involved in,” he said.

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter

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