SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The annual Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon will not return to the Hostess City in 2022, the city of Savannah announced Monday.
The status of the 2023 race remains up in the air. City leaders say, if there was ever a good time to pause the event, it’s now.
“With a new council, a new mayor, a new city manager, there are many variables that have to be contemplated when renewing an event of this scale. Including the necessary public resources that it requires to manage this event and balance the disruption to residents and businesses who live along the route,” Mayor Van Johnson said Tuesday at his weekly press conference.
Officials said the city’s three-year contract with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series just ended, and city leaders want to take some time to evaluate the cost of the marathon and its impact on Savannah.
After being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by a restructured event in 2021 — approved just weeks prior and toned down due to heavy rain — this year’s event had hoped to bounce back, bringing some normalcy along with it.
According to Johnson, the city pays $25,000 just to host the race each year. That’s not including what is spent on the added police force, traffic engineering, or other costs associated with hosting an event of that magnitude.
“While this event has an impact on business, and it has an impact on tourism, and while it has an impact on the economy, it also has an impact on residents, and neighborhoods, and communities,” Mayor Johnson explained.
The race weekends have averaged around 15,000 to 16,000 participants each year, according to Visit Savannah. It also estimated that the race brought between $15 to $20M in spending each year.
Last year’s race started on Bay Street, weaving through the streets of Savannah and ended at historic Forsyth Park. It also required runners to be either fully vaccinated or report a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of running.
The race includes a marathon, half marathon, half marathon relay, 5K, 1-mile and races for kids.
While city officials aren’t closing the door on a potential return in 2023, they’re putting an emphasis on reimagining how the race might look.
Trying to allow more businesses to get involved, while giving residents a chance not to be affected by the race’s long and winding route.
“We also want to create opportunities for many more small businesses, minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses across the city to benefit from this huge event. We’ve heard from some businesses across our community that say, well, ‘when the Rock ‘n’ Roll happens, I have to close. People can’t get to me’,” Johnson said.
Moving forward, Mayor Johnson says the city will continue to evaluate every large scale event that the city hosts, to make sure they’re getting the most out of hosting these events.
To read previous Rock ‘n’ Roll stories, click or tap here.