JOPLIN, Mo. —
It’s the end of the road for what had been hoped to be the area’s signature running event.
The Joplin City Council on Monday night voted to end the Mother Road Marathon tied to historic Route 66 after hearing a presentation on the costs and declining participation.
Patrick Tuttle, director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the council that the October event drew 572 this year, with more participating in the half-marathon and the 5K run than the full 26.2-mile marathon. It was promoted as the only marathon through three states and as a challenge course because of its 219-foot incline in elevation from Commerce, Okla., to Joplin.
“This year we had 26 states and one country represented; there was a couple from the Netherlands,” Tuttle told the council. There were 176 marathon runners, 268 in the half-marathon and 128 in the 5K, plus 46 children who ran a mile through downtown as part of a fitness program.
The total number of runners was 200 fewer than last year’s figure and 69 fewer than that in 2011. The event debuted in 2010 with 1,657.
Tuttle said the numbers could improve if someone had time to go to other running events and promote the marathon, but he and his staff have other duties, which this year included staging the Route 66 International Festival that was held in August.
Councilman Mike Woolston cited the event’s costs. The expenses were $70,070 and the revenue generated from entry fees was $35,582, costing the city about $34,500. “I think it’s losing money and it’s just not taking off,” he said. He said he would vote to fund it one more year as a transitional year if it were to be handed over to someone else to manage.
Council members asked if the Joplin Sports Authority or the Joplin Memorial Run group could take it over. Tuttle said the Memorial Run was down in participation this year too. Council member Jack Golden said the JSA does not have the budget to pay the expense to stage the event.
Councilman Mike Seibert asked if the half-marathon and the 5K could carry the event, reducing costs. Tuttle said it would be hard to promote it without the marathon component through the three states.
Tuttle said tying the run to a charitable cause might boost participation, but the city attorney said the city has to be careful about promoting a charity.
Councilman Gary Shaw said he would regret losing the regional promotion of the area and the relationships among the towns. Tuttle said it might be possible to preserve those ties by promoting a different event, such as the Route 66 festival. He said the area could bid on playing host to the festival again in 2016.
The council voted 5-3 to end the marathon. One member, Bill Scearce, was absent.
That discussion took place in the council’s informal 5:15 p.m. meeting.
In the 6 p.m. regular session, a proposal to build a wheel and tire shop in an area of 20th Street that is yet to be redeveloped from the 2011 tornado was nixed.
David Harrison, the owner of a chain of RNR Custom Wheels and Tires stores in Little Rock, Ark., sought a change in zoning from residential to heavy commercial at 2817 E. 20th St. The site is in the middle of the block between Texas and Highview avenues.
City planning and development director Troy Bolander told the council that the proposal would set the standard for redevelopment of that area of 20th Street. After the area was destroyed in the tornado, the council approved a revision in the city’s land-use plans to put commercial development there instead of allowing houses to be rebuilt.
Harrison said he had been looking for a suitable location to bring a shop into Joplin for about two years. He said his store would operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and would close at 5 p.m. Saturdays, which he termed as friendly hours to the neighborhood. He said the building would have insulated walls and its garage doors would be kept closed to cut down on the noise of the operation. He also presented photos to show that his building plan would resemble a retail shop more than a garage.
The zoning change had been endorsed by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Dr. Keith Grebe, 2736 E. 15th St., told the council that the neighborhood has had to adapt to a number of commercial changes around it. “If you allow C-3 zoning in this area, it will change the character of this city,” Grebe told the council. That type of zoning also would permit liquor stores and convenience stores. Grebe said there is a large amount of property available for those types of operations on East 20th Street, Seventh Street, Maiden Lane and 32nd Street.
Nearly 40 percent of the surrounding residential property owners filed protests with the city against the proposal.
Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg made a motion to deny the zoning that carried by a vote of 5-3.
THE CITY COUNCIL approved zoning requests and easement vacations for the rebuilding of skilled nursing homes that were destroyed by the 2011 tornado at 28th Street and Jackson Avenue, and at 26th Street and Moffet Avenue. The changes were done to correct the presence of unneeded easements, and to accommodate changes in the shapes and sizes of the buildings.