Marathon making impact on businesses

The Third annual Louisiana Marathon should have an economic impact of about $5.4 million on Baton Rouge this weekend, according to the event’s founders.

Craig Sweeney, Pat Fellows and Danny Bourgeois say up to 6,000 runners and between 20,000 and 24,000 spectators should be attracted downtown for a 60-exhibit Expo at the River Center on Friday and Saturday. Then come kids’ races and a 5 -kilometer event on Saturday and a half-marathon and marathon that will stretch from the state Capitol past LSU on Sunday.

Sweeney, Fellows and Bourgeois have earmarked $250,000 of the proceeds for distribution among at least 17 charities, and they expect the visitors to book at least 1,000 local hotel rooms.

Stephen R. Barnes, an economics professor at LSU, confirmed the event will significantly boost local business and tax receipts.

“I would estimate the economic impact at between $2 (million) and $6.5 million,” Barnes said.

Lacking time for a formal study, Barnes said conservative assumptions were balanced against aggressive assumptions to produce a range of expected sales outcomes, all of which were positive.

Hotel managers welcome the event.

“It’s a huge impact for the hotel industry,” Francis Grayson, general manager at the Hotel Indigo, said. “We’re all sold out. All the downtown hotels are sold out this weekend.”

Several miles south, at the Mariott Hotel on Hilton Avenue, sales director Madeline Strother said, “We’re approaching a sell-out. Anytime something like this comes to the city, it’s a win-win.”

Runners from all 50 states and at least seven other countries are headed to Baton Rouge, Sweeney said. Athletes from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Norway are among those who have paid their $120 entry fee for the 26.2-mile competition. Adding to the attraction is the fact that the local race is a qualifying event for the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Ellie Rand, who fielded questions on behalf of the Louisiana Marathon, said 1,865 runners would begin Sunday from a point near the steps of the Capitol, pound pavement through downtown neighborhoods, past office buildings to LSU, then wind around the university lakes and City Park before heading back to the finish.

That marathon run will follow a half-marathon that drew 2,880 runners, Rand said. And 1,100 runners will compete Saturday in a five-kilometer (3.1 miles) event, the same day that 300 kids will follow much shorter routes.

The food of Baton Rouge is a big attraction, Sweeney added. From Acme Oyster House to Tsunami, he said, 21 favorite restaurants will sell their best at a location near the Capitol at A.Z. Young Park. Others are Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s; Chimes/Parrain’s;Doe’s Eat Place; Fresh Junkie; Galatoire’s Bistro; Hotel Indigo; Jimmy John’s; Juban’s; L’Auberge Casino Hotel; Le Creole; Mestizo’s Louisiana Mexican Cuisine; Pop Culture; Restaurant IPO; Strands Cafe; Sullivan’s Steakhouse; The Big Squeezy; Quarters; Zoe’s; and The Belle of Baton Rouge.

“People will want to come back next year,” said Sweeney.