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City running hard to attract visitors
Fredericksburg looks to benefit from second half marathon

 Last year, the Fredericksburg Expo Center housed more than 60 booths geared to runners.
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Date published: 5/16/2009

BY EMILY BATTLE

Some downtown shops might open early tomorrow to serve coffee and tea.

The city tourism office is going to focus more on getting people downtown during the day today than trying to host an event tonight.

These are a few of the ways Fredericksburg is tweaking its welcome to the 6,610 runners who are registered to participate in tomorrow's Marine Corps Historic Half marathon.

This year will be the second running of the race, which the Marine Corps has committed to keep in Fredericksburg through at least 2012.

While more than 1,000 more runners have registered this year than last year, organizers did not hit the 9,000-runner limit they set for this year.

And in a possible sign of the impact of a slow economy, while the number of registered racers is up, the number of area hotel room nights booked for the event is down.

This time last year, the company that handled hotel bookings for the race reported that 600 hotel room nights had been booked in the area for the event.

This year, city tourism officials report that 500 room nights had been booked as of Wednesday.

Last year, 3,824 of the 5,561 registered runners finished the race. Along with their families and supporters, these runners brought an estimated 15,000 people to the region.

An economic impact study prepared by the University of Mary Washington estimated that the event generated between $1.97 million and $2.79 million in direct spending in the region.

UMW has been asked by the race organizers to conduct a similar study of this year's race.

But if you ask some of the city's merchants, the biggest value in this now annual event isn't necessarily just in what folks spend in the two or three days they come to town in May, but in the impression of Fredericksburg they take home with them.

"People aren't going to necessarily be spending lots of money on that weekend, but if they live nearby, it's the gift that keeps on giving," said Benjamin Walker, president of Downtown Retail Marketing Inc. "Sometimes people have great expectations for single weekends, but it's all about planting that seed."


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