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Marathon expected to boost area economy

With an estimated 30,000 runners from nearly 40 countries, the Zappos.com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon is expected to produce a nongaming economic impact of $18.6 million and about 55,000 room nights this weekend, a tourism spokesman said Friday.

Las Vegas, which once went “dark” with its shows in December, has evolved into a nice winter vacation destination with a cross-section of events, Vince Alberta of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said.

Along with the marathon, the National Finals Rodeo and NASCAR Awards are in town.

“It really demonstrates the strength of the Las Vegas brand,” Alberta said. “The runners, the cowboys and NASCAR, each with a fan base that will contribute dollars to the local economy.”

The Las Vegas marathon has grown each year and benefits businesses beyond the gaming and hospitality industry. San Diego-based Rock ‘n’ Roll, which organizes marathons in about 20 cities, including Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago, is in its second year of doing the Las Vegas race.

“They’re very good at what they do and I think the awareness of the marathon as well as the participation has grown,” Alberta said.

Rock ‘n’ Roll’s website projects that participant and spectator spending will exceed $64.5 million in economic impact over the race weekend.

Tonya Harvey, owner of Photos by Tonya, was hired by Nissan to take pictures of the automaker’s cars leading runners through the course and the Nissan booth where family and friends can make signs to support their favorite runners.

“My job is to find as many of those signs together,” said Harvey, who landed the freelance job last year. “It’s one of the most fun and exciting jobs because of the momentum of these runners. It’s a pretty special event whether you’re an elite runner or trying to check it off your bucket list.”

Vendor booths display the latest products in health and running at the two-day Health and Fitness Expo at the Sands Expo in conjunction with the marathon.

Tim Kelly of Las Vegas Running Co. attended the expo Friday, organizing pace teams and lead vehicle drivers. He said the marathon has helped his business by creating demand in the community for a quality racing event.

“It helps me with the races I put on,” Kelly said. “People want more than a race. They want an event. I’m a runner myself and I’ll show up to race anybody, any time. They don’t care about a T-shirt or a trophy. They want all the fufu, the good food, the entertainment.”

Kelly said the best thing about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series is they pay their bills. The previous marathon organizer “skipped town” owing about $1.25 million, he said.

Las Vegas is not on par with Boston, New York or Los Angeles, but it’s certainly catching up with marathon runners and their opinion of the city.

“Las Vegas is now something you can sell. It’s the second brand name to Google. If you can’t sell Las Vegas around the world, you should probably do something else with your life,” Kelly said.

Alberta said the marathon drew 37,856 out-of-town visitors in 2009. The next big event coming to Las Vegas is the Maaco Bowl on Dec. 22, which will pit University of Utah against either Boise State or the University of Nevada, Reno.

Last year, the college football bowl game drew 32,500 out-of-town visitors for a nongaming economic impact of $18.1 million, he said.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.

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