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The Suburbanite
  • Canton Marathon keeps vendors, cities waiting to be paid

  • The Canton Marathon is trying to weather serious financial problems. Vendors and cities still are owed money. Employees have been laid off. A celebration party was canceled. Organizers say they’ll come through it, though, and they look forward to the 2013 race.

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  • The Canton Marathon was a success for runners, but behind the scenes, it’s in  financial turmoil.
    Nine vendors who provided services during the June 17 race have received only partial payments or haven’t been paid at all; two cities haven’t yet been paid for police and fire services; the event’s two employees were laid off a month ago; and a celebration party to be held last night was canceled abruptly.
    “We owe a lot of people a lot of money,” said Julia Dick, Marathon president and a co-founder of the race.
    She and race Chief Executive Stephen Mears, the other co-founder, blame the money problems on a corporate sponsor that didn’t come through as promised.
    They declined to name the company, but said a plan has been worked out to recoup the money from the business.
    “It’s an unfortunate and very difficult situation,” Dick said.
    Race officials said they’ll meet with their creditors soon to set up payment plans.
    Dick said the Marathon will pay all of its debts in full, so the focus can shift to the 2013 Canton Marathon, on June 16.
    “This is a viable property ... with a positive future,” Mears said.
    Dick and Mears, who said they weren’t paid for their work on the event, declined to say how much money the Marathon or its creditors are owed.
    They also wouldn’t reveal how much money — collected through registration fees and sponsorships — flowed into or out of the event.
    Fees for the marathon ranged from $70 to $100 per runner, depending on the sign-up date. Fees for smaller races, which technically were part of the same event, ranged from $10 to $85.
    In all, the event attracted about 5,500 runners.
    CHARITIES AND VENDORS
    Legally, the Canton Marathon is owned by a private limited liability corporation, formed four years ago by Dick. Its financial information is not public. A separate non-profit corporation of the same name, is the arm she and Mears plan to use to distribute future race profits to local charities.
    “The intention is for this to become a big money-maker for charities,” Mears said.
    Nine of 12 charities designated to receive a portion of this year’s registration fees have been paid. Three others — Stark County Park District, American Heart Association and Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank — will be paid when they complete and return short surveys, Dick said.
    In addition, race officials had planned to donate profits to a health and wellness fund at the Stark Community Foundation. Local charities could then apply for some of that grant money.
    That’s likely to be on hold until after another marathon, because there isn’t enough money on hand to open an account, Mears said.
    Page 2 of 3 -  Unpaid vendors and representatives of cities want to be paid. At the same time, though, many say they’re trying to be as reasonable as possible because they want the event to succeed in the future.
    Forrest Alexander, of Event Architecture Group in Columbus, supplied banners for the race, primarily inside Fawcett Stadium. He said he recently received a check for the second half of his $5,000 bill.
    “We were getting pretty concerned; it finally came through after we contacted our attorney,” he said.
    Terry Lewis, of Canton’s RS Racing Systems, provided on-line registration and race timing services. He declined to comment for this story. However, in an email to race officials in July, Lewis indicated he was owed $17,000 of his $20,000 bill: “I hope you can right the ship and move forward, but we can not jeopardize our businesses by supporting those who do not support us, do not pay their bills, and are creating an aura of uncertainty ... ,” he wrote.
    Lewis then informed local runners the Canton Marathon would be removed from the Subway Challenge Series of races for 2013. He also decided not to work this November’s planned Dick’s Horseradish Race, sponsored by Julia Dick’s family. The race was scratched from the Subway Series, as well.
    Dick said the Horseradish Race is postponed until next year. She said the Canton Marathon won’t take it personally, though. The marathon, she said, will continue to promote local races, including those in the Subway Series.
    “We think the running community here is great,” she said.
    Amanda Walls, Lewis’ attorney, believes the Canton Marathon is an asset, but she wants to make sure he and others are compensated. “Our ultimate concern ... is not to create an overall black eye,” she said.
    CITIES AND NEXT YEAR
    Canton is owed $19,588 for its police and fire service during the event, said Derek Gordon, an assistant to Mayor William J. Healy II. And North Canton is owed $9,707, according to Director of Administration Michael Grimes.
    Both have meetings arranged with marathon officials. If North Canton remains on next year’s race route, Grimes said, the city may ask for payment up front — as their neighbors in Jackson Township did this year.
    “We wanted a first-class event that showcased our community, Stark County,” Dick said. “And I know we accomplished that. It was a community and collaborative effort. That’s the only way it can work.”
    If the marathon collects all it’s due, the race still should break even, Dick said. However, she acknowledged that expenses, in some cases, wound up being more than anticipated and budgeted.
    For example, they sought almost exclusively local vendors, regardless of cost. Next year, services will be bid out. They also went top-of-the-line on accessory items such as T-shirts, which proved costly.
    Page 3 of 3 - Mears and Dick said next year’s race will be laid out in a manner that should cost less for police and fire services, too.