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Williamsburg race expected to be a boon to Triangle's economy and Newport News school

Thousands of runners and their families and friends will descend on Williamsburg this weekend for the inaugural Run for the Dream half marathon and 8K race. They've booked hundreds of hotel rooms and are expected to spend at shops, restaurants and attractions while in the Historic Triangle.

At least that's the conventional wisdom heading into Saturday and Sunday's races. The event to benefit An Achievable Dream — a Newport News-based non-profit for at-risk students — has more than 4,500 participants registered, said Amy Ritchie, An Achievable Dream spokeswoman. Organizers anticipate about 12,000 event-based visitors will spend more than $2 million over the weekend.

Registration has exceeded expectations, Ritchie said. She added that more than 800 room nights have been booked at Colonial Williamsburg hotels and motels.

Priscilla Caldwell, executive director of the Williamsburg Hotel and Motel Association, said she heard hotels outside Colonial Williamsburg were also taking race-related bookings.

The event showcases Williamsburg as "an active, healthy community" for an audience that might not otherwise visit, said City Manager Jack Tuttle.

"The demographics of runners are exactly what tourism officials are looking for," said Jerry Frostick, who along with wife Amy is race director for the popular Yuengling Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach.

He said, "they have disposable income, are in the 35 to 45-year-old age range, have 2.4 kids and stay 1.4 nights. They're about energy, fitness and family fun."

Frostick said Shamrock participation has grown from 3,500 runners 10 years ago to more than 25,000 in 2011. He said nearly $8 million was spent in the resort city this year in conjunction with the race.

"I think Williamsburg has a lot to offer families," he said. "If they can bring them there, and everyone has a good time, I think the event could be put on a calendar and they'll come year after year."

Tom Strout of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation said he thinks the race will grow into an important May event.

"It's a pretty exciting thing to be having here in Williamsburg," Strout said. "A rising tide lifts all boats — the ripple effect is going to have some impact."

The fact that 20 percent of the race's 4,500 participants are coming from out-of-state is a good economic indicator of what is to come, said Linda Stanier, a Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance spokeswoman.

She said other events in the Williamsburg-area over the weekend — including a youth basketball state qualifying tournament whose participants have booked an additional 400 hotel room nights — will also contribute to the economic impact.

"We're looking forward to a very successful weekend," Stanier said. "It's a pretty busy time."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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