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Tourism leader calls loss of Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon ‘devastating’

FILE PHOTO - 2018 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Savannah.
FILE PHOTO - 2018 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Savannah.(WTOC)
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 5:40 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2022 at 4:26 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon will not return to Savannah in 2022; and it’s also not coming back in 2023 at least.

This was an event the City of Savannah had hosted for ten years. According to Visit Savannah data from 2019, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon had a total economic impact of just over $23 million.

“We have to put that money out now. We get it back later, some of it, but again it’s a percentage of it later and it’s a relatively very small percentage. If you look at what any industry gets, you get what the city gets, it’s much different. All I am saying is, from my perspective and my perspective only, is that we deserve the opportunity to discuss more favorable terms on behalf of the city, this community, and our residents,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

Now that the race won’t be back this year, or next, one Savannah tourism leader is weighing in.

“To be honest with you, it’s devastating. I’ve gotten more phone calls about this than anything. I’ve gotten more calls about the cancellation of Rock ‘n’ Roll than I did in the beginning of the pandemic,” Tourism Leadership Council President/CEO Michael Owens said.

Owens spoke about the loss of revenue his member businesses will feel as a result of the marathon not coming back for at least two years.

“Really our focus now is trying to backfill that business now in November. November is a tough month, that’s why Rock ‘n’ Roll was so great,” Owens said.

Owens said the marathon, which brought in thousands of runners and their supports for a ten year stretch in Savannah, was just the shot in the arm the tourism and hospitality industry needed going into the holidays.

“Trying to replace that business will be very difficult. But we’re going to do our best. And hopefully we can look forward to a relationship in 2024 and beyond with Rock ‘n’ Roll or another event that would bring as much as the $20 million that Rock ‘n’ Roll brought to this community,” he said.

Exploring other event possibilities is also now on the mind of Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

“We’ll do something to fill that void. And we’ll have more people to come, and they’ll enjoy themselves, and we’ll go on. We’ve been here since 1733, we’ve dealt with disappointment before. And we persisted, we still persevered, we still survived,” Mayor Johnson said.

The owner of Fleet Feet Sports also weighed in on the city’s decision to not host the race and what it could mean for Savannah.

“I think Rock ‘n’ Roll came here and did a fantastic job helping put Savannah on the map. I know there’s been some questions about what’s the economic impact versus the cost and risk assessments and those types of things, and I would hope that those things were being looked at well before this time,” Mike Nadeau said.

As of right now, no further comment is being offered up by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon team other than the statement they posted to Facebook last night.

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Posted by Rock 'n' Roll Savannah on Wednesday, April 20, 2022

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