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Rock 'n' Roll St. Pete Half Marathon canceled for low attendance

ST. PETERSBURG — Runners and residents will hear the sound of silence in 2014 instead of the likes of Sean Kingston or Flo Rida. The California company that sponsors the Rock 'n' Roll St. Pete Half Marathon in February has pulled the plug on the next race because of low participation the last two years.

Kingston performed near the race's finish line along the waterfront in 2013, and Flo Rida did in 2012. About 7,000 runners finished in 2012, far below the estimated 12,000 to 15,000 race promoters projected. This year, about 6,500 participants completed the course.

Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater spent $100,000 each year promoting the race. The city kicked in $30,000 worth of services the first year.

"After a careful evaluation, we have made the difficult business decision to cancel the 2014 Rock 'n' Roll St. Pete Half Marathon and focus our resources on the Women's Running Half Marathon and the TriRock Clearwater Triathlon," said Dan Cruz, spokesman for California-based Competitor Group. "St. Pete is a tremendous destination with an active endurance community, and we look forward to growing those two world-class events in the future."

Organizers could no longer afford to rent out part of Tropicana Field for the event, Mayor Bill Foster said. He hopes the race can return at a later date.

The city did not lose money on the race, he added. The cancellation, Foster said, will not deter from bringing other events to the city.

"It was truly a business decision," Foster said.

Registered half-marathon participants can transfer to the women's running event Nov. 24 or another Rock 'n' Roll race in another city or get a refund.

St. Petersburg joined the ranks of Las Vegas; Savannah, Ga.; Madrid; and Nice, France, when Competitor Group added it to its lineup of more than 30 cities around the world hosting Rock 'n' Roll events, which feature local and national music acts along the course.

When the St. Petersburg race drew half the projected runners in its inaugural year, Cruz said it was a good starting point and expected 2013 to be better with more lead time for publicity. D.T. Minich, executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, said he wasn't disappointed and expected the race would gain traction in 2013.

It didn't.

It seems runners are opting to spend their energy, time and money on other races in the area.

"Florida is a very competitive market with many well-established local races and then a few key national draws," Cruz said. He pointed to the ING marathon and half-marathon in Miami and the Disney marathon, half-marathon and other races in Orlando, all in January, weeks before the February Rock 'n' Roll event in St. Petersburg. The Disney marathon and half-marathon are already soldout for 2014, according to its website.

"We are considering backing away from a few other underperforming markets," said Cruz, who added that no public money has been spent on next year's event. The Pasadena, Calif., race has also been canceled.

Competitor Group will continue to sponsor the TriRock triathlon in Clearwater, scheduled for Nov. 10. It is one of seven triathlons in the series.

Renaissance Vinoy Resort general manager Russ Bond said St. Petersburg will miss out on the Rock 'n' Roll brand advertising the city as a destination. But the impact on tourism for the February race weekend won't be felt too harshly because it's usually a busy time of the year.

"We will continue booking groups and conventions two and three years in advance because that's always been a popular weekend," he said. "I continue to be an advocate of finding events that take place during our downtime."

He pointed to the new Enjoy Arts & Tastes: St. Petersburg & the Bay Area Festival of Food in November and the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in December as events that will bring business to the hotel and other tourism businesses in a time that's usually slower.

Competitor Group did a great job of marketing and organizing the race, Bond said, but half-marathons typically don't book as many overnight stays as marathons or triathlons.

"St. Anthony's (Triathlon) has an incredible reputation. It's an Olympic qualifier. We get a lot of people that spend two nights for that," he added.

Times staff writer Mark Puente contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at (727) 893-8785 or kssmith@tampabay.com.

Rock 'n' Roll St. Pete Half Marathon canceled for low attendance 09/03/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 11:00pm]
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