Las Vegas Sun

January 27, 2015

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Las Vegas marathon participation down — but not because of problems last year, organizers say


Steve Marcus

Runner George Saunders of Redlands, Calif. strikes an Elvis Presley pose while waiting for the start of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon Sunday, December 4, 2011. The marathon and half-marathon attracted 44,000 official entrants from all 50 states and 54 countries, organizers said.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon will feature 14,000 fewer participants this year after water contamination issues and concerns of overcrowding drew complaints from runners in 2011.

However, organizers contend the problems from last year aren't behind the dropoff in participation. Rather, they say, numbers are down because the 2011 race was the first to be held at night, and the novelty has worn off this year.

The race, which had traditionally been held during the day, saw explosive growth when it moved to an evening start last year. In 2010, around 28,000 people ran in the marathon before attendance ballooned to more than 44,000 last year, making the event the second largest in the country behind the New York City Marathon. This year, the number of participants has gone back down to around 32,000, still the second most in the history of the race.

“We couldn’t replicate the novelty again,” said Dan Cruz, a spokesman for Competitor Group, the San Diego-based company that operates the race. "This year, we focused more on the organization of the event instead of the marketing.”

The race is among 27 in the national Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series, operated by Competitor Group. Last year, the Las Vegas marathon brought more than $100 million into the local economy.

Scott Voeller, a senior vice president with MGM Resorts International, said the event is one of the 10 most profitable of the year for Las Vegas businesses.

“This is truly a citywide event,” Voeller said. “The entire community participates, and it needs it to be successful.”

Held Sunday evening, the event allows the tourism and hospitality industries to extend the weekend an extra day, Voeller said, helping to pull revenue in a month that typically lags in profitability.

After complaints about water contamination and overcrowding in last year's marathon, course organizers developed a series of improvements including a strategy to bring safe water to runners and a route that includes the Fremont Street Experience.

Competitor Group, in its fourth year of operating the race, will bring in water from the Las Vegas Valley Water District and will have a distribution system using water monster — a portable water tower filtration system — at each aid station. Clark County commissioners approved the new plans.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak said Competitor Group had done its due diligence in ironing out the water issues from last year, and he expects runners will be able to focus on enjoying their time in town.

“Anytime somebody gets sick, it’s a big deal.” Sisolak said. “I certainly don’t expect there to be a recurrence. Any concern we had, they were Johnny on the spot in addressing. It’s very comforting."

The marathon, which benefits the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, will begin at 3 p.m., with the half marathon starting at 4:30 p.m. The runners will represent all 50 states and 52 countries on a day that is expected to be in the high 60s and partly cloudy with a light breeze.

Cruz said organizers made changes to the race based on participant feedback.

“As an organization, we have spent the last 12 months listening to the feedback of runners and analyzing all of the challenges from last year,” he said. “We want people to leave this event and enjoy Las Vegas.”

In previous years, runners started on Las Vegas Boulevard South near Mandalay Bay and the Luxor and finished in the same area. Cruz said having the start and finish so close together created congestion and made it difficult for people to get back to their hotels.

This year, the marathon and half marathon will start in the same place but will end in front of the Mirage after bringing runners through a variety of new areas, including downtown.

“We’re showcasing another part of Las Vegas that not everybody gets to visit,” Cruz said. “It’s just another way that this event has become more encompassing, highlighting everything Las Vegas has to offer.”

The road closures will include:

• Las Vegas Boulevard northbound and southbound between East Sunset Road and East Stewart Avenue

• Las Vegas Boulevard southbound from Spring Mountain Road to East Flamingo Road from 10 a.m. on Sunday to 2 a.m. Monday

• Martin Luther King Boulevard southbound from Brooks Street to Symphony Park Avenue

• Carey Avenue from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Rancho Drive

• East Hacienda Avenue from Las Vegas Boulevard to Giles Street

• East Flamingo Road from Koval Lane to Interstate 15

• Fremont Street from North Main Street to North Fourth Street

• Several downtown roads between North Main Street and 11th Street

Most of the road closures will be in effect from 2 p.m. to about 11 p.m. Sunday, and access will open as the final runners complete the course. Runners will have four hours to complete the half marathon and 4 1/2 hours to complete the full marathon before race officials start closing the course. During the race, pedestrians will be unable to cross Las Vegas Boulevard and will be pointed toward elevated walkways over the road.

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  1. Yeah ok I believe that!

  2. Not that any one will care, but WHY is Clark County allowing a major portion of the entire Strip to be shut down just for some fundraiser event.

    Unless there is something that was not reported in this article, there seems to be a major problem evolving for tourists (NOT RUNNERS).

    How can people who need to CHECK INTO, OR OUT OF, a hotel do so? If they come to Las Vegas in a car, or from the airport in a bus or taxi, they WILL NOT BE ABLE TO get to the hotels or the airport. So, they will spend their first day in the airport, or their car - WAITING for the RUNNERS to finish this marathon.

    This event has been touted as making millions of dollars for Hotels and Casinos(?) - and probably for Clark County GOvernment (in the form of fees?). But what about the people who are "JUST TOURISTS" - and are unable to move about The Strip while this event goes on.

    WHY can't this event find another location to run in - in Las Vegas - where it will not be such a long, drawn-out, event that runs for 12 hours - until midnight.

    This is exactly why Las Vegas gets hit for seeming to care more about MONEY, than their HOTEL GUESTS and GAMBLERS.

    Has Clark County advised airlines to tell their passengers that they will NOT BE ABLE TO CHECK IN to a hotel for 12 hours on SUNDAY?

    There are probably more reasons to move this event someplace else - perhaps even to use I-215, since there are alternate surface roads to use.

    But, as usual, Clark County Government, knows nothing about Customer Service; and the casinos seem more than willing to sit back and take the money from RUNNERS - at the expense and convience of their other guests, including those who are TRYING TO get in, or leave, their hotels.

    I forecast that this event will be viewed as injurious to Las Vegas tourist trade - and I hope that some writer from the LV Sun, or the LV Journal, will write about these unfortunate circumstances - as experienced by such tourists (not as seen by the RUNNERS).

    The route for this marathon needs to be changed.

  3. You must have missed the part that said "Last year, the Las Vegas marathon brought more than $100 million into the local economy."

    Or where the Senior VP of MGM Resorts said the event is one of the 10 most profitable of the year for Las Vegas businesses.

  4. Wow, there are some angry people here. Mus have had their Obama Stimulus check cut off or something.

    We close the strip off for NY Eve without much trouble. This town still moves and the money is important to the people who WORK here...

    This town was built for tourism and we know how to move people around for major events like this one. Life will go on and people will survive!

  5. Sometimes I have to wonder if some of the people posting/ranting even live in Vegas.

    This is not the first time for this event. The strip gets closed for other things and it does not stop people checking in.

    Just about EVERY hotel on the strip has access from streets other than the strip. It is not like this was popped on them last night, it has been known for a year.

    Other major cities also close many of their main streets for races each year. (New York)

    A few hours of one day our of a whole life time. This is not going to ruin anyones life.

    Glad they have decided to keep running this race here. Brings in Millions that support this town and keeps 1000's employed.

  6. You mean a major issue from last year isn't the reason why people didn't come this year?! Seriously, what are these guys smoking?! LMFAO

    Of course it was because of last year's BS! Maybe next year Zappos should force them to stage it downtown?

  7. It's All Groovy!