Runners in the Los Angeles Marathon this year approach the finish line on Ocean Avenue. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — Frank McCourt’s legal problems regarding the Los Angeles Dodgers and the aftermath of a messy divorce have cast a shadow over the future of another of his sporting assets — the L.A. Marathon.

Marathon officials are confident that McCourt’s other legal entanglements won’t affect the race’s future and return to Santa Monica, but even city officials are curious as to how the whole situation will pan out.

The two sides have yet to sit down and discuss the particulars of the marathon’s return to the city by the sea for a third straight year. That meeting is expected to take place in the next few weeks, but it seems all parties anticipate that a deal is at hand.

The only sticking points for Santa Monica Assistant City Manager Elaine Polachek are the ownership status of the marathon and the logistics of the finish line and post-race festival.

“We welcome the return of the marathon … but we want to make sure we’re working with a solvent entity,” Polachek said. “We also want to make sure the city is made whole by any expenses incurred.”

The marathon made good on its payment to City Hall for the first two years the race ended in Santa Monica, but with McCourt’s legal issues come questions. Last year’s bill was $315,677, city officials reported. 

Nick Curl, the L.A. Marathon’s race director and chief operating officer, said that the ownership status is secure and that the race will go on. While he’s been instructed not to discuss much about McCourt’s situation, he did say that the operations of the marathon are not affected by the drama swirling around the Dodgers and McCourt’s divorce.

“We’re in great shape,” Curl said. “I think we have a very strong, competent team and we’re damn excited about 2012.”

The marathon is said to be doing fine, but the same can’t be said of McCourt’s largest asset.

The embattled owner is in the midst of a dogfight with Major League Baseball over the ownership of the Dodgers.

On Thursday, a Delaware judge denied a request by the team’s ownership to order MLB to turn over a slew of documents in the team’s ongoing bankruptcy case.

The Dodgers sought a wide range of records they believed would bolster their argument that Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB have treated the team unfairly and should not be allowed to serve as its bankruptcy lender.

The information sought by the Dodgers included records regarding MLB’s investigation of the team and owner, its decision to reject a broadcast rights deal between the Dodgers and Fox Sports, communications between Selig and the monitor he appointed to oversee the Dodgers, and missives between the league and McCourt’s ex-wife, Jamie, who is seeking half of his ownership assets.

Calls to a McCourt spokesman were not returned.

Despite speculation that the marathon may be owned by both McCourts, Polachek and city officials have been assured that Frank McCourt is the sole owner and that the race isn’t subject to community property laws. Yet. Polachek said that she would like to clear the air when the two sides meet in the coming weeks.

“If there is any question about ownership being able to afford the costs, we’re not going down that road,” she said. “We’ll certainly be asking them about the ownership status.”

Aside from the ownership talk, Polachek said that changes will have to be made to the marathon’s route if it returns to Santa Monica.

The vacant lot near the corner of Colorado and Ocean avenues used to host the post-marathon party in 2011 won’t be available when the race takes place on March 18, 2012. It is the future site of Palisades Garden Walk and will be a construction zone when the runners cross the finish line.

The end of the race may be impacted as a result. This year it took place at Ocean and California avenues. Polachek said that there are a few available options, but those choices will be further reduced during that weekend. Cirque du Soleil will occupy the parking lot just north of the Santa Monica Pier, where the 2010 festival was held, ruling the site out. She added that the Civic Center parking lot may be a suitable substitute, but city officials aren’t locked into that idea, either.

“Not everything is nailed down,” she said. “We still have work to do. It has to make sense for Santa Monica.”


Associated Press contributed to this report.




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