10k Run To Leave City For County

Fees Called Reason Constellation Race Will Go To Hunt Valley

April 25, 1997|By Robert Guy Matthews and William E. Thompson Jr. | Robert Guy Matthews and William E. Thompson Jr.,SUN STAFF

A popular 10-kilometer race that has been an annual city tradition for 21 years is moving to Baltimore County because the Schmoke administration charges thousands of dollars more for police protection and road barricades, organizers say.

The Constellation Classic 10K (6.2 miles) road race, which draws hundreds of runners, will move to Hunt Valley on May 25 and change its name to Constellation Memorial Day 10K.

Charlie Reynolds, president of the Baltimore Road Runners Club, said the race is relocating because the city charges about $6,500 in fees while the county charges only $50.

"The Inner Harbor was a great location," Reynolds said. "But it was a financial thing."

Unlike the county, the city charges for setting up cones, cordoning off roads and directing traffic.

News of the move caught County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger by surprise.

"I'm glad they are coming," Ruppersberger said through a spokesman.

Robert L. Hannon, the county's economic development director and a former race participant, said the race typically attracts more than 3,000 runners and was a major draw for downtown.

"The real benefit is that it's a real festive race," Hannon said. "It was the best and most widely proclaimed race in Baltimore."

In 1993, when city officials began charging fees for festivals, foot races and parades, community leaders predicted the demise of some of the popular street gatherings that are a hallmark of Baltimore.

The "I Am An American Day" parade moved from East Baltimore to Dundalk after its organizers canceled the 1995 parade because of the mounting city fees.

And the March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon, which for 22 years had attracted as many as 30,000 people in Baltimore, fled to the suburbs to protest the fees, but returned the next year.

An estimated 47 events are charged the fees, city officials said this week. For the most part, the traditional celebrations have remained in the city.

Clinton R. Coleman, spokesman for the mayor, said the city wants the race to stay in Baltimore.

But "the taxpayers of Baltimore cannot afford to subsidize these various events such as this race," Coleman said. "It is something that is important but not essential."

He said the city does not make a profit from the fees.

Reynolds said he told club members recently that the cost of running the race in the city was so high that it would have to move or be discontinued.

City records show that the Baltimore Road Runners Club, a 900-member group, was charged $6,431.12 last year.

Public works charged $842 for barricades, posting detour signs and setting up cones. The Police Department charged $5,589.12 for safety.

City officials said they want the club to come back and are willing to cut the price.

"It is regrettable that the event sponsors did not choose to talk to the city before they made their decision because we certainly would have been willing to work with them," said Mari Ross, assistant to the mayor.

Those fees, coupled with declines in the number of participants and sponsors, cut into the group's profit margin for its main fund-raising event, organizers said.

Given that the costs would be the same this year, Reynolds wrote in a group newsletter that without a major sponsor the group stood to lose up to $4,000 if it held the race in the city again. He said last year the group raised less than $1,000.

The organizers said the city has been uncooperative.

They said for the past several years the club had trouble getting permits. The club changed the race's route after city officials complained of bottled traffic, organizers said.

"We pointed out that we were bringing money into the city, that people were coming from out of town and booking hotel rooms," Reynolds said. "But they really didn't seem to care too much."

He said county officials are giving the club is better treatment.

"They're welcoming us with open arms," he said. "They're glad we're here."

The race will begin at 8 a.m. at McCormick Road in Hunt Valley, cross Interstate 83 into Oregon Ridge Park and return along Beaver Dam Road.

Pub Date: 4/25/97

Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

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