CITYWIDE — Over 50,000 runners and observers will descend upon Santa Monica Sunday as part of the L.A. Marathon, filling hotel rooms, restaurants and, hopefully, the pockets of local business owners.

Organizers expect the race to top the $5 million in economic benefits reported by L.A. County businesses from the 2010 event, said Dave Klewan, spokesperson for the marathon.

“Between increased numbers of runners and spectators, we expect some growth,” Klewan said.

Santa Monica hotels and businesses may hit and exceed that $5 million figure before the end of the weekend, if a conservative projection from the Convention and Visitors Bureau comes true.

That estimate, based on the number of hotel rooms and CVB studies of what visitors spend while in town, puts the economic impact of the race at a cool $4.5 million for Santa Monica alone, said Alison Best, vice president of sales and services at the CVB.

Those numbers account for the 3,000 two-night hotel room bookings and a lower projection of 40,000 visitors on race day to account for the possibility of bad weather, Best wrote in an e-mail.

Although hotels are sure to be flush with customers, other businesses will have to work a bit harder to attract marathon-related customers.

Not all businesses benefited from the 2010 event, in part because of a bottleneck of visitors created by the placement of the finish line at Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, and placing the finish line celebration in the 1550 beach parking lot, distant from many store fronts.

This year, City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Santa Monica Inc. and the CVB collaborated to get more information out to businesses about the race and opportunities to capitalize on the weekend’s visiting population.

For instance, hotels were encouraged to sell only two-night stays in order to attract outsiders to the Buy Local Expo, a citywide festival celebrating the wares of Santa Monica’s art and business communities, which will be held Saturday.

The CVB created a web page dedicated to promoting deals offered by local businesses to runners, as well as places for race-watchers to see the extended KTLA coverage of the marathon from the comfort of a restaurant booth.

“We want to encourage people to stay dry and eat good food,” Best said. “We’re also encouraging other businesses to have KTLA on their TVs.”

Santa Monica Place, for instance, will host indoor marathon watching on four large flatscreens in its food court, in case rain chases people off of the route. It will also give free post-race champagne to anyone with a runner’s placard.

City Hall is doing its part to promote a lively weekend environment by issuing temporary sidewalk permits to businesses to create a visible presence and woo potential customers, Best said.

City staff took lessons from the 2010 marathon to heart, said Andrew Maximous, a city transportation engineer.

“We felt that the outreach to businesses wasn’t as good as it could have been last year,” Maximous said. “We’ve had a tremendous push this year to partner with the CVB, business districts and pier to push information out farther.”

Businesses won’t be the only ones raking it in this year.

Although no one has completed an official economic impact study examining the effects of the marathon on city coffers, staff knows at least one area will pay off: parking.

City lots closer to the end of the race will raise rates to $20, while those further away will actually drop below normal rates to $5, said Don Patterson, business and revenue operations manager for the city.

“On event days, we implement our event pricing strategy where we try to encourage people to disperse to different parking locations by pricing,” Patterson said.

Staff first used the strategy at last year’s marathon, and it worked, bringing in both additional revenue and spreading out the traffic congestion.

This year, parking will bring in an additional $100,000 above and beyond a normal Sunday, Patterson said.

Not all money will go to lining pockets, however.

Charities like Sojourn, a program within OPCC for battered women and their children, are benefiting from runners and other volunteers who pledged to raise funds for specific miles.

Sojourn will get proceeds from mile 25. Participants fundraise by getting people to pledge money through individual websites and personal outreach. So far, the charity has raised $50,000, five times the size of their next-largest campaign.

“We started a little after Thanksgiving and we’ve been raising money from then,” said Michael Pegues, the development operations manager at Sojourn. “We’ve had multiple events, like lasagna parties and things like that. It’s part of an ongoing effort to get people to band together and raise this money for the organization.”

Sojourn attracted 146 fundraisers from the marathon alone.

Organizers hope to raise $4 million for charity this year, double the $2 million the 2010 race brought in.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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