Pittsburgh Marathon brought $10.2M to region in 2015

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, 12:11 p.m.

Hotel rooms around the start and finish lines for the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon in May are in short supply.

The Wyndham Grand overlooking the finish area at Point State Park has a few rooms, as does the Residence Inn across the Allegheny River on the North Shore.

But the nearby Spring Hill Suites and Hyatt Place are booked solid, according to online reservation systems.

“People book very early,” said John Graf, owner of The Priory Hotel on the North Side and chair of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Graf's hotel has been booked for months, he said. This year's race is May 1, and organizers expect 40,000 runners.

“We wanted to make this event so impactful that it would not only impact runners, but it would impact our community in a very positive way,” said Patrice Matamoros, CEO of Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon , the nonprofit that organizes the marathon.

The Pittsburgh Marathon generated $10.2 million in spending on lodging, transportation, food and beverages, retail, recreation and other activities in 2015, VisitPittsburgh and race organizers said Tuesday during a news conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, home of the annual marathon expo. Visitors booked 8,450 room nights for race weekend.

“A big part of this is putting a very positive face forward for Pittsburgh in a worldwide market,” said Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh, the region's tourism promotion agency.

More than 40,000 people from 23 countries and 50 states ran the 2015 marathon, and more than 200,000 lined city streets to watch the race. Davis said that 89 percent of out-of-town runners indicated on a survey that they were likely to visit Pittsburgh again for a non-running vacation.

“One of the things we know about Pittsburgh is when people come here, they kind of fall in love with it,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

The 2014 race attracted about $8.3 million in spending. Davis said the increase in 2015 was partly the result of higher hotel rates but also because VisitPittsburgh changed how it estimates the economic impact of events.

In 2015, it started using Destination Marketing Association International's “Event Impact Calculator,” a national model.

It uses the number of attendees, the length of the event and the type of the event to make estimates. For an event like the marathon, the model factors in less restaurant spending than for a conference, Davis said. The model assumes that conference attendees spend more on steak dinners and alcohol than a marathon runner.

“The majority of the runners, they eat the lighter fare,” said Mike Stanek, a manager of restaurant NOLA on the Square.

Graf said marathon weekend is unique because for as crowded as the city is, the bars don't do much business.

“Except for the night after the race,” Graf said.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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