Bill Lorenz is a marathon runner, and a marathon race organizer. "Both running them and organizing them," he said, "is a lot of work."
The Vermont man is looking for new places to run a 26.2 mile race, especially during the winter. He believes the Mississippi Gulf Coast shoreline would make runners feel right at home. "This place," Lorenz said as he walked toward the beach, "I can just see it having a lot of energy."
Lorenz presented his marathon plans to 25 community leaders. He said a successful winter race could bring 5,000 runners to the Biloxi Gulfport area on a Sunday morning. He told the group, "I'm just absolutely thrilled with what could be done with a marathon here."
In light of recent Black Spring Break traffic gridlock, casino spokesman Joe Giardina worried about closing Highway 90 for any length of time so marathon runners could race to the finish line. He said, "We just can't afford to lose another day of business."
On the other hand, Bill Lorenz said a coast marathon could bring in more casino guests, and between 10,000 and 15,000 hotel room nights. And tourism leaders say that could help hotels that have struggled during recent winters. Ann Hoff runs the marketing department at a Biloxi casino. During the presentation, she supported the marathon concept. "I think as a community it's something we should embrace," said Hoff.
Tourism Director Steve Richer thinks the marathon race could help the coast become a year round destination. He said, "I'm thinking that in the fourth quarter or even the first quarter, depending on the date, if we can find an event that is going to give us 10,000-15,000 room nights, that's a pretty nice thing."
Coast leaders will talk more about the marathon proposal at a meeting on May 24th.
The marathon proposal from Bill Lorenz says sponsors from around the coast would need to contribute $100,000 to help get the event off the ground.