A new sporting event is coming to Lexington next spring: the Lexington Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, in partnership with Keeneland Race Course and the LeXenomics Group.
The 13.1-mile race, to be held March 30, will begin at Keeneland and wind along country roads and horse farms. In addition to a scenic route for runners, entertainment is a major factor in similar Rock 'n' Roll events in other cities.
Bands will be positioned on entertainment stages along every mile, interspersed with cheerleaders and themed water stations. A major headliner concert band will be at the finish line, said Peter Englehart, chairman of Competitor Group Inc. Englehart spoke at a news conference Tuesday at Keeneland announcing the race. Competitor Group is a sports media and event entertainment company that organizes the races.
"The entertainment component is very appealing," company spokesman Dan Cruz said.
The race weekend will start with a health and fitness expo at Keeneland, with 120 exhibitors showing the latest in running gear, sports apparel, and health and nutritional information. In the future, the expos are planned for the Lexington Center, Englehart said.
The Lexington Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon will replace the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon, which was held for the first time at Keeneland in 2011. That race had 2,100 registered runners this year, said Eric Patrick Marr, founder of LeXenomics and the Run the Bluegrass race director.
Englehart said Rock 'n' Roll events in cities of similar size to Lexington, including Providence, R.I.; Savannah, Ga.; and St. Petersburg, Fla., attracted about 5,000 runners their first years. The series started in 1998 in San Diego, where the company is based.
"Rock 'n' Roll events are a little different than traditional races in that 70 percent of the runners come from out-of- market area. These are destination races," Englehart said before the news conference.
Competitor Group Inc. is scheduled to produce 32 races in 2012 with an estimated 700,000 runners, and the races will have a total economic impact of about $600 million on cities where they are held, he said.
Englehart said the Competitor Group frequently partners with a local university to conduct economic impact studies on its races.
LeXenomics and Keene-land have signed a 10-year contract with Competitor Group, Marr said.
Long-distance runner Josh Cox, the American record-holder in the 50-kilometer run and a spokesman for Rock 'n' Roll events, led a three-mile fun run Tuesday that started from West Sixth Brewing Co.