Progress made, but it could be weeks before decision is made on S.L. Marathon

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 21 2012 10:45 p.m. MST

Third-place women's finisher Amanda Mauldin, of Orem, passes the finish line of the Salt Lake City Marathon at the Gateway in Salt Lake City. Saturday, April 17, 2010.rn

Lennie Mahler, Deseret News archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Road Sports met the city's deadline for staging the Salt Lake marathon — mostly.

And that means there will be a marathon on April 21 — maybe.

"Essentially, U.S. Road Sports provided most of the information we requested by the deadline," said Art Raymond, spokesman for the mayor's office. "They were missing a significant document from the county, but we decided to give them a little leeway on that, and so now we're set to begin the review process."

That is a process that could take "weeks."

And the fact that Tuesday's deadline for application material was submitted — at least all but one document — only means the process can now move off of square one.

"This in no way indicates approval," said Raymond. "Basically, it means we have all of the information we need to begin the review process. …The permit process is moving forward."

And while the fact that the permitting process is just beginning sounds bad, one of the men helping plan the April 21 event for U.S. Road Sports said it's not.

"In most municipalities, it's not like you turn in a permit and it's all done," said Zemola, CEO of Chicago-based Special Events Management, which handles about 40 races per year. Zemola's company is handling certain aspects of the race for U.S. Road Sports, which bought the race on Feb. 10 from Chris Devine, the man who started the event nine years ago.

"My experience with most municipalities is that you're working in good faith," he said. "Sometimes you don't get a permit until a few days before the event."

He said if there are problems, however, officials usually let organizers know so they can make changes or adjustments.

The document U.S. Road Sports was missing was an application for a mass gathering issued by Salt Lake County.

"There was some misunderstanding about what they needed from Salt Lake County," said Raymond. "It appears it was an error of omission."

There seems to be three major concerns for U.S. Road Sports and Special Events Management as they attempt to stage the troubled event with a little more than two months until scheduled race day.

First, Handy's 20-year business relationship to Devine. Second, Zemola's involvement in the Palm Beach Marathon in December, in which there were water shortages. And thirdly, the fact that Devine sold the race to Handy without paying all of the vendors who helped stage the 2011 race.

While Handy and Zemola have address the situations that involve them, both city officials and the races new owners and organizers said the fact that Devine didn't pay his bills isn't anything they can remedy.

Handy said it was a requirement of the sale that Devine pay the outstanding debts. But the largest outstanding bill is to AA Sports of Portland, the company that timed the race. Co-owner Jon Atherton said not only hasn't he been paid the $65-75,000 that his company is owed, he hasn't been contacted by anyone — Devine, U.S. Road Sports or Salt Lake City.

At a minimum, Atherton said city officials should look at changing their ordinances to deal with the issue that has led to him having to sue Devine to get paid.

"They should think twice and probably change how they conduct giving out permits," he said. "You can get permits as long as you've taken care of all the contracts from the previous event, otherwise you give the city a bad name."

Raymond reiterated on Tuesday that the city had "no legal standing" in making Devine or U.S. Road Sports pay any vendors who are still owed money. He did say the mayor's office had received calls that several local vendors have been paid.

He said city officials are "much chagrined that a contingency of the sale of this race did not include a stipulation to pay vendors."

Zemola said Handy is taking heat for what Devine did, and not getting any credit for being willing to lose money to salvage a race that he will likely pay several hundred thousand dollars to stage.

In fact, one local runner, Rob Lee, said Handy contacted him and told him he'd support an effort by participants to run the race, even if the city denies the permits, and even give them medals at the finish.

"U.S. Road sports is willing to go in and salvage everything for the athletes, for the city, and I think that's very meaningful," said Zemola.

email: adonaldson@desnews.com

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