Blue Ridge Marathon, Down by Downtown generate $1.6 million boost for Roanoke Valley economy

Roanoke Valley News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – Despite the complications of the coronavirus pandemic, the Blue Ridge Marathon and related festivities in Roanoke ended up contributing $1.6 million in regional economic impact.

Approximately 2,800 runners registered for Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon, double marathon, half marathon, relay, Anthem Star 10K, and Carilion Family 1-Miler and the Sunday Slow-K, the Roanoke Outside Foundation says.

“As the first large-event in downtown Roanoke since the pandemic, this event was able to set the gold standard for hosting safe, in-person events which will play a crucial role in the region’s economic recovery,” the Roanoke Outside Foundation said in a statement on Tuesday, May 11. “A third of the jobs lost on a net basis, as a result of the pandemic, are in the hospitality industry. Polling of local restaurants, businesses and hotels showed that the weekend drove an unprecedented amount of both local and out-of-town traffic back into downtown.”

When coupled with the four-day Freedom First Down by Downtown music festival, the race festivities collectively generated a record single-year total of $1.6 million in economic impact, according to an analysis by the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

“Race weekend has always had a positive impact on the businesses in Roanoke, especially the restaurants downtown,” said Jason Martin, owner of restaurants Martin’s Downtown and Sidecar. “We noticed increased traffic throughout the weekend and there were many first time and out-of-town visitors in our dining rooms. I personally observed many diners sporting marathon shirts that also stuck around for the live music. The whole weekend felt very festive!”

Post-race survey data reportedly determined the weekend created $920,000 in direct new sales activity, in addition to $680,000 in indirect and induced spending. Furthermore, officials say the activity surrounding the event will support 20 jobs in the regional economy over the course of a year.

According to the Roanoke Outside Foundation, the increases represent growing participation in the race, the continued impact of the Sunday Slow-K, a steady number of overnight stays, induced local spending in local eateries and retail, and attendance of the Freedom First Down by Downtown Music Festival, which coincides with race weekend.

“It’s amazing how impactful the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon is on our region,” said Foot Levelers CEO Kent S. Greenawalt. “Over the years these races have drawn participants from all over the world creating unforgettable experiences for the attendees, race partners and our community. We see increased exposure, increased economic impact, and we continually hear stories from visitors about how beautiful and unique our region is, and how many of them never knew all that Roanoke had to offer. That’s what it’s all about.”

The Roanoke Outside Foundation says the race drew runners from 40 states and five countries, with the number of runners participating from outside the Roanoke Valley accounting for 56 percent of race participants.

The average length of stay among overnight visitors was reportedly 1.9 nights.

Approximately $10,000 in proceeds from the marathon went to 14 nonprofits that supported runners before, during, and after the race this year, bringing the total amount of money donated to dozens of local organizations by the Roanoke Outside Foundation to $210,750 through the Blue Ridge Marathon.

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