ST. GEORGE — St. George Marathon organizers are welcoming 6,800 runners to town today for what is billed as the "15th Largest Marathon in the U.S.A." The race typically draws more than 8,500 entrants from throughout the nation and nearly a dozen foreign countries. Organizers estimate the marathon contributes $1.5 million to the local economy over a three-day period.

Right on the heels of the marathon, another 10,000 athletes age 50 and over begin arriving for the 21st Huntsman World Senior Games, which kicks off on Tuesday and runs through Oct. 17.

Most of those athletes bring at least one or two people with them and everybody spends money, said Dan Needy, director of marketing for the Huntsman World Senior Games.

"The economic impact is huge," said Needy. "Last year we had 9,416 participants in the senior games, and they put just under $50 million into the economy."

Usually there's at least one full week between the two sporting events, giving residents time to recover from the influx of extra traffic around town. That won't happen this year since there are several crossover days between the two sporting events, but that's just part of the pattern of growth for the area, Needy says.

"It's a challenge," he admits. "We have always had steady growth, but we're getting to the point where we are not going to be able to take on more athletes in certain sports."

Bowling, volleyball and softball teams fill up fast, and it's getting tough to find enough room to add more teams, Needy said.

"We've got 323 softball teams playing nearly 1,100 games in those two weeks. That's a lot of hours of play," he said. And a lot of folks filling local hotels, buying gas, eating in restaurants and shopping.

Participants come from nearly every state and several dozen countries and participate in 22 sports held at 99 venues throughout the county. Male participants outnumber female athletes 2 to 1.

The World Senior Games officially starts Tuesday with the opening ceremonies at 7 p.m. in Hansen Stadium at Dixie State College. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. plans to attend the opening ceremonies, along with Olympic speed skating gold medalist Eric Heiden and Hall of Fame golfer Billy Casper.Endnote

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