- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 6, 2002

The D.C. Mayor's Office is defending the success of the D.C. Marathon, saying it brought the economic boost it promised and was not a financial flop, as some are suggesting.

But 12 days after the event, the city still has not produced the data to back up its claims.

Downtown civic activist Terrance Lynch is questioning whether the marathon generated the $8 million to $10 million promised by the mayor's spokesman, Tony Bullock, on March 26.

Mr. Bullock says the figures refer to overall "economic benefit," not necessarily specific revenue and that Mr. Lynch should leave the number-crunching to the pros.

"I don't think Mr. Lynch has the capacity to accurately gauge this information," Mr. Bullock said. "He should let the professionals do it."

Mr. Bullock told churches that the marathon's economic benefit would far outweigh the inconveniences they experienced by having the race run on Palm Sunday.

This week, Mr. Bullock differentiated between economic benefit and revenue, saying the former was simply "people spending money here in the District who wouldn't otherwise be spending it here."

"It doesn't mean money is coming to the D.C. government, or to D.C. residents, unless you're a restaurant owner or cab driver."

That's not enough for Mr. Lynch, who questioned the marathon's tangible economic effect on the city.

"The mayor does these special events where he claims it's going to benefit the city. Well, where's the beef? Show me the money," said Mr. Lynch.

Mr. Lynch sent a letter to the mayor March 28 asking him for details on how much the city made.

According to H20 Promotions, the organizers of the race, 4,315 runners finished the race.

The runners paid between $75 and $85 each to run in the race. That money went to H20 Promotions.

Mr. Lynch estimated that if 500 of 1,000 out-of-towners stayed at city hotels for one or two nights, the revenue generated would be only $150,000.

Mr. Bullock said the $8 million to $10 million estimate was given to him by the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp., which routinely estimates the economic benefit of such events.

Victoria Isley, of WCTC, said the WCTC estimates the economic benefit of an event by looking primarily at money spent on transportation, lodging, restaurants, entertainment and sales tax.

Miss Isley said it was not unusual for an exact accounting of "economic benefits" to take weeks and even months, but she said WCTC would have its estimate available soon.

H20 Promotions did not profit from the event and did not expect to because it was the race's first year, said spokeswoman Angela Casey.

Two downtown hotels that offered discounts to marathoners, with 1,000 rooms between them, were sold out.

Metro ridership was up on race day: 217,622 persons rode MetroRail on March 24, compared with the usual 178,000.

Roughly 330 police officers worked the event, at a cost of $100,000, half of which was billed to D.C. taxpayers, said Cmdr. Jose Acosta of Special Operations.

Mr. Lynch, who says he supports the idea of a marathon in the city, was concerned by such a large diversion of police force.

"I'd like to see the city putting its resources into things that bring long-term financial benefit," Mr. Lynch said.

Runners themselves gave the race mixed reviews.

"The general consensus is that [the marathon] was conducted well, but there were a few problems," said Kathy Freedman, editor of the Washington Running Report.

The two biggest problems were with the course and the bag check after the race. Several top finishers ran off-course near the end, and the bag check tent was too small and understaffed.

"There was a horrendous line," said first-time marathoner Arnetta Davis, 50. "That was the worst part of it."

Marathons take years to build momentum, and the mayor hopes for the District's to become an annual event that sparks economic benefit similar to Boston and New York, Mr. Bullock said. Those cities' marathons generate upwards of $90 million in economic benefits, he said.

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