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Salt Lake Marathon has new owner, but 2012 race still in question

Published: Friday, Feb. 10 2012 5:34 p.m. MST

The second-place women's finisher of the Salt Lake City Marathon approaches the final stretch of the race at the Gateway. Saturday, April 17, 2010. Lennie Mahler, Deseret News

Lennie Mahler, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Marathon has a new owner.

And while the man who started the event says that ensures this year's race will not only be held on April 21 but will be better than ever, city officials are still skeptical.

"Following nine years of building the Salt Lake City Marathon, ownership is being transferred to U.S. Road Sports," according to Chris Devine, who said he was getting out of the road race business in order to pursue opportunities in radio. "This year's marathon will be managed by USRS's highly qualified and capable staff."

Despite being plagued by financial difficulties that include vendors not being paid or being paid long after the event, the Salt Lake Marathon, half marathon and family 5K remained immensely popular. In 2011 more than 10,000 people participated in the running events and the associated bike tour.

Devine said he didn't want to sell the race in December after race director Scott Kerr resigned. But he said after looking at all the options, selling the event to USRS (who also own the Miami Marathon, among others) felt like the best move for the future of the race.

"I'm comforted to know that it's in good hands," said Devine. "I'm a little disappointed frankly in some of the speculation that the race won't happen. The new owners fully intend to meet all deadlines and hold the race."

City officials contacted Friday morning said the deadline for completing all necessary paperwork is Feb. 15.

"We are fast approaching the date after which the protected date will no longer be tenable," said Art Raymond, spokesman for Mayor Ralph Becker. "The simple reality is that is the amount of time it takes all of the city entities that need to prepare for the event. We have heard rumors (of new ownership), but we have not issued a permit, nor processed an application from a new sponsor group."

Devine said the necessary application fees have been paid. He added that new owners planned to be in Salt Lake City Tuesday of next week and meet with city officials on Wednesday. One of the issues is where the race should finish, Devine said.

Raymond said the city had only "intermittent and sporadic" contact with Devine Racing and was concerned that officials were "yet to hear a name of a local race director."

He said that if the deadline passes without the race owners meeting the requirements of the city, then there likely would be no race in Salt Lake City held on that date.

"It wouldn't be feasible for any organization," said Raymond, who added that city officials enjoy hosting events like the marathon. "We appreciate the kind of energy an event like this generates, but the current owners have not performed well in our community."

He said the city had a "high volume" of contact from runners interested in participating, but weren't able to advise them on whether or not they should plan for a race.

"We can't answer that question," Raymond said. "We don't know what to say. And more importantly, (the way the race has been run) reflects a complete lack of professionalism. To leave participants excited to be involved in this event hung over the cliff so to speak, this close to the event, without communicating effectively, it's a huge disappointment."

He said city officials had heard from a number of small business owners who either weren't paid or were paid a long period of time after the event since Kerr resigned in October.

"It's a very unfortunate position for the city to be in," said Raymond. "We're extremely concerned with the history of conduct. And the current conduct for that matter."

Devine feels badly that the reputation of the race has been sullied, and he hopes new ownership will restore it as one of the country's top events. He thanked the officials who'd helped him launch the event and the runners who supported it.

"I have enjoyed watching thousands of participants run in the marathon events since our inaugural race in 2003," Devine said. "It has been rewarding to witness, and to hear all of the individual wonderful stories of motivation. I am grateful to all who assisted in the healthy marathon experience that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars being raised for charity and millions of dollars of positive economic impact in the community. Genuine thanks to our county and city mayors, deputy county mayor, their support staff and the marathon's thousands of volunteers. To Rocky Anderson who shared the vision, thank you.

"I ran the half marathon for the first time in 2011. It became very clear to me that the marathon needs an upgrade to enjoy a strong positive future. That future is now secure."

email: adonaldson@desnews.com

twitter: adonsports

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