The following is cross-posted from Noah Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium blog.
Last year, it took the Times almost a month to report what 10 News pointed out in a couple of days: Saint Pete’s Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon failed to deliver half of its promised economic impact when it received $100,000 in public subsidies.
This year, the Times didn’t hesitate in calling out race organizers, who promised a better turnout in year two but actually saw FEWER participants, despite great weather:
Organizers said 6,500 people were scheduled to compete in the road race this year, which began at 7:30 a.m. at Tropicana Field and wound its way through St. Petersburg, ending at North Shore Park. About 1,000 people registered to run a 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) race — what organizers referred to as the “mini marathon” — but most signed up for the 13.1-mile feat of endurance.
When St. Petersburg city officials first boasted that the Rock ‘n’ roll Half Marathon was coming to town, they projected it would draw 12,000 to 15,000 runners. The actual number was closer to half of that estimate, but that has not diminished elected officials’ attraction to the race.
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster attended the event Sunday, as did City Council members Jeff Danner and Wengay Newton.
Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater has a three-year contract for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and has pledged to spend $100,000 for each race.
The paper didn’t delve into too much depth beyond that, so here are other important facts:
- On top of the visitor & convention bureau’s spending, St. Petersburg is also spending $30,000 a year on in-kind services for the race.
- Owners of the San Diego-based race company promised better turnout this year, but it got a lot worse. According to the race’s results page, only 4,379 runners completed the race, down from 7,021 last year. Another 558 runners ran this year’s new Rock n’ Roll 5k.
- The event may have had 6,500 runners sign up, but with only 4,937 finishers, it’s likely 1,000 of the runners just didn’t show up, meaning they didn’t contribute to the local economy.
- Race organizers last year said they filled 4,200 hotel rooms thanks to 1,600 out-of-state participants, but this year, there were fewer than 1,000 out-of-state participants.
- When subsidies were secured, organizers predicted “over 50 percent of the field, probably closer to 60 percent of the field next year will be coming from all 50 states.” But only 920 of finishers (18.6%) were from out-of-state.
One thing is clear – the St. Petersburg Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon isn’t drawing the kind of out-of-state interest race organizers – or elected officials – were hoping for.
However, don’t expect any more complaints from the St. Petersburg Women’s Half Marathon, one of the Rock n’ Roll’s biggest competitors. That’s because the company that runs the Rock n’ Roll races just bought the women’s race from the St. Petersburg company that started it.