After months of turmoil, the popular Salt Lake City Marathon might not take place this year.
Its embattled owner broke a long silence by telling city officials through a representative Friday that he is selling the race, but the city has neither heard from what mayoral spokesman Art Raymond called the “rumored new owners” nor issued a permit for the April 21 race.
And if the city does not get substantially more information on race plans from either longtime owner Chris Devine or a new ownership group by Wednesday, it will not issue a permit for the race to take place on its scheduled date because Raymond said there will not be enough time to prepare — despite an e-mail Devine’s company sent to prospective runners this week encouraging them to register.
“By no means is it a lock just because there’s supposedly a new owner,” Raymond said. “The assumption at this point is any new group would be starting from square one.”
Devine did not return calls from The Salt Lake Tribune.
But he told the Deseret News that he is selling the marathon to U.S. Road Sports, which owns the Miami Marathon and the Chicago Half-Marathon, among others. He said the new owners plan to stage the race as scheduled, but U.S. Road Sports could not be reached to confirm the deal.
“They’re starting to run out of time,” said Tyler Curtis, the city’s events manager.
Curtis said Devine’s company applied for a city permit in December, but the application “wasn’t terribly complete.” The city asked for more information by Feb. 15, including confirmation that Devine has hired a new local race director and been in contact with vendors and other municipalities about coordinating for the race.
Until Friday, the city hadn’t heard back — and still isn’t satisfied with what it has heard.
“They’re hoping the info that they gave us will pass,” said Curtis, who ultimately would approve an application and issue a permit. “But I’m not so sure it will.”
Raymond said he was told that “somebody” — either Devine or a representative of U.S. Road Sports, he wasn’t sure — is planning to travel to Salt Lake City on Monday to meet with city officials.
But that “doesn’t change the calendar,” he said. “Time is time.”
Devine told The Tribune in December that he was on the verge of hiring a new race director and that the ninth annual race would take place as scheduled, despite the resignation of his entire staff in Utah last fall amid continuing complaints by vendors who said they weren’t getting paid for their work on the race. Former race director Scott Kerr said he quit Oct. 26 because he had “reached a point of serious concern” about how the race was being run, and several vendors have said they would refuse to work for the race this year unless they were paid entirely up front.
Yet online registration for the 26.2-mile race has been open for months — registration for the marathon costs $94, and will go up to $98 at the end of the month — and the race’s website gives no indication of its tenuous future.
Last year, more than 8,600 people participated in the marathon and a series of shorter running races and a bike tour, according to race results.
Devine has a long history of failing to pay vendors and victorious runners quickly, if at all, and has been sued at least a dozen times in the past few years. Agents for elite athletes have long steered their clients away from the Salt Lake City Marathon and other Devine events because of difficulty in getting their prize money.
Curtis said the city is “deeply concerned” about all of that, but that city ordinances prohibit it from refusing Devine a race permit on those grounds alone.
“We can’t withhold a permit based on their lack of meeting obligations to other groups,” he said.
Yet the city was doing what it could to counsel runners.
In an email posted on a Salt Lake City Marathon group page on Facebook earlier this week, the assistant to mayor Ralph Becker’s chief of staff warned runners about paying to register for the race.
“We cannot speak on behalf of the marathon,” assistant Bianca Shreeve wrote, “but based on the information we have, we would urge great caution regarding your participation in this event.”
For earlier coverage on the Salt Lake Marathon go to: http://bit.ly/vknftk