The Atlantic City Marathon Race Series is coming to the resort Saturday and Sunday, bringing an estimated 3,000 runners, not including family and friends who will cheer from the streets and the Boardwalk.
The race series offers a marathon and half-marathon Sunday and 10K and 5K runs Saturday.
The potential economic benefits to the city are obvious. And so is the potential for participatory-sports events such as the marathon to play a bigger role in the city’s future.
“We completely embrace these types of special events because they take advantage of everything Atlantic City has to offer,” Mayor Don Guardian said in a statement. “The benefit for us is increased hotel, food, beverage and other destination spending.”
Events such as races bring a great economic impact, as some runners arrive in advance to train or bring family members or friends with them. Organizations such as Meet AC and the Atlantic City Sports Commission are working to bring more such events to the city, he said.
Timothy Schneider, publisher of Sports Travel Magazine, said the Atlantic City Marathon has an immediate effect on the city, partly because of the variety of races runners can choose from.
“The popularity of the 5K and shorter distances has caused these events to attract a much wider variety of participants. That’s good news for destinations like A.C.,” said Schneider, whose magazine estimates sports-related travel accounts for nearly 97 million hotel room-nights each year in the U.S.
According to Running USA’s “State of the Sport” study in 2015, 5K was the most popular race length for U.S. runners, with 8 million people a year participating in them. Half marathons were the second most popular, with 2 million people, and 10K races were third, with 1.2 million people.
Schneider credits the Atlantic City Sports Commission for providing events like the marathon, the pro watercross in July and the upcoming 39th annual American Finals Rodeo, and says they are signs the city is trying to improve its sporting events.
So how big could an event like the marathon get?
Genia Bittner, the event director for the race series hosted by the Milton and Betty Katz Jewish Community Center in Margate, said while the organizers don’t expect a large jump in registration from last year, they are open to hosting more runners and attracting visitors who haven’t already been to the city.
“We are hoping that in the next couple of years we see growth,” she said. “Atlantic City has a tremendous amount to offer, and not everyone has gone outside a casino building here.”
Jeremy Jordan, director of Temple University’s Sports Industry Research Center, said sporting events can help the resort’s shoulder season.
Jordan said racing crowds typically have disposable income and will spend money at hotels and businesses.
“It can be significant, with new money coming into the community and attracting people from outside. And most people will stay at least one night,” he said.
The marathon also offers potential benefits to businesses the runners will pass, such as Kelsey and Kim’s on Melrose Avenue, said owner Kelsey Jackson. Events that bring visitors who don’t normally frequent the city are sure to bring in customers, he said.
“We need to have more events like this,” Jackson said. “Anything to draw people to the city is a plus. I think we’re going in the right direction.”