SportsEvents Magazine

AUG 2015

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August 2015 20 There was a quick learning curve for race organizers when The Biggest Loser RunWalk hosted its first run at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pa., two years ago. A single road enter- i ng the park was shut down due to an accident and race organizers had to work quickly to ensure the event's success. They were able to work out the kinks, said Christina Spurlock, director of marketing and public relations for The Biggest Loser RunWalk. This year, on June 7, the race was back at the park, drawing more than 1,600 runners and walkers to a 5K and a half marathon. "Runners love Presque Isle State Park because it is flat and they can often achieve a personal record," Spurlock said, adding that runners choose to make it a weekend in Erie for the race. This event was not with- out its challenges for organizers. "Mostly, the park- i ng was a big concern for us. We made sure to promote carpooling and that everyone come extra early," she said. In addition, organizers received help from the Erie Sports Commission, which provided parking volunteers to assist in the effort. Presque Isle State Park hosts more than 80 sports events each year, including running, biking, triathlon, sand vol- leyball, soccer, fishing and swimming events. The Erie Sports Commission will host 10 of its total 34 events in 2015 at the park. The events generate nearly $1.5 million in estimated economic impact, said Emily Biddle, communications director. Holding a sports event in a natural setting is a balancing act. Ryan Rager, assistant park manager for Presque Isle State Park said that to be successful planners should take the environment, public safety and the impact that the event will have on the venue into consideration. Spurlock agreed, and added that any restrictions required because it is a natural venue "are well worth the return." n t NATURAL Venues When 7,500 cyclists hit the roads of Sonoma County, Calif., this October for the Levi's GranFondo race, they will face a route that is an intense challenge coupled with immense beauty. The 101.8-mile cycling event has added more routes this year to stay in the forefront of cycling competition, said Greg Fisher of Bike Monkey, which hosts the GranFondo as well as several other annual cycling events. Sonoma County is a great fit for the race, he said, admitting that he is a little prejudiced because it is his home. But that is not the only reason. "Sonoma County is thick with back roads that are exceptional for cycling," he said. Those roads have little traffic and are pictur- esque. In addition, the climate is mild, mak- ing the area north of San Francisco perfect for year-round cycling. The ride is named after retired pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer, who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif. "He chose Santa Rosa and Sonoma County to live because he knew he needed a place where he could train," Fisher said. "He looked all over the world and came here." The event pumps about $3.15 million into the economy each year and raises more than $270,000 for nonprofits, according to the Press Democrat, which covered the 2014 ride. The area hosts up to 40 endurance events per year, consisting mostly of run- ning and biking. What draws these events to Sonoma County? "Obviously the beauty, but also the access- ibility, the route, and the impact on the cities and county lands," said Charlene Lennon of the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). Fisher said the GranFondo gets support from the CVB, city and county. Locals offer sincere hospitality to event participants, and that makes the GranFondo stand out among cycling races. "This is our community. We know it really well," he said. "So there is a sin- cere feeling of hospitality with the people." n Natural Venue KNOW HOW: Make sure emergency plans are in place when holding a race event outdoors. Know where road guards are needed, and where emergency responders will be stationed. —Ryan Rager, Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pa. Natural Venue KNOW HOW: If an event starts in one city, travels through another and ends at yet another, keep the city and county services in the loop during planning stages. —Charlene Lennon, Santa Rosa CVB Cyclists Enjoy Intensity & Hospitality Of Sonoma County, Calif. Erie (PA) Sports Commission Presque Isle State Park in Erie, P a., played host to the Biggest Loser RunWalk 2015. Levi's GranFondo race in Sonoma County, Calif. Presque Isle State Park In Erie, Pa., Well Worth The Return Bike Monkey

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