CHICAGO (WLS) --Last October, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon brought tens of thousands of people to Chicago- and according to a new study, a quarter of a billion dollars, too.
There is no doubt the marathon brings lots of visitors and lots of dollars to the city and it's a great showcase for Chicago. Marathon sponsor Bank of America officials say last year's race brought in a record amount- more than a quarter billion dollars. Though some economists take issue with that figure.
Tomaso Lara has run the Chicago Marathon 18 times, but the night before he always has what he calls another marathon - his shift as matre' d at the Italian Village, an extremely popular restaurant for runners looking to load up on pasta the night before the big race.
"We always look forward to it, always. It's something that gives us a little boost in October, right before the holidays," said Joseph Deininger, general manager.
Restaurant business is but a small part of the overall economic impact of the marathon on the city, according to a new study commissioned by marathon sponsor Bank of America.
The study finds the marathon brought more than a quarter billion dollars in overall impact to the city over the Columbus Day weekend last year. It also provided the equivalent of more than 1,700 full-time jobs. About two-thirds of the 45,000 registered runners are from out of town, and 18 percent from out of the country. And they spend money on hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.
"What used to be a rather local and regional race, has become regional, national and international," said Don Welsh, Choose Chicago.
University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson has run the marathon himself three times and he's a big fan of the race, but he says the numbers are unrealistic.
"Those numbers are horribly inflated. If I spend $200 at a hotel, all of that $200, most of it, does not stay in Chicago. It goes to where the corporate headquarters are of that hotel," said Sanderson.
Marathon officials stand by the study. The race itself takes runners on a 26.2 mile tour of the city through 29 different neighborhoods. But it also brings an estimated 1 million fans to those neighborhoods to line the course in support of the runners.
"When our participants and people associated with the marathon come to Chicago, they just discover the energy and the vibrance of this community, and that resonates," said Carey Pinkowski, executive director of the Chicago Marathon.
This year's race is 51 days away on October 12. It's been sold out for months and it's pretty tough to find a hotel room in the city for that weekend. By the way, the University of Chicago professor Allen Sanderson says the only other sports franchise in Chicago that draws a significant amount of economic impact from out of town visitors is the Cubs.