Jeramey Jannene

City Endorses New Lakefront Marathon Course With Hoan Bridge

Approval eliminates issue that doomed the 2022 race.

By - Jul 19th, 2023 03:41 pm
Runners finish the 2022 "Not the Lakefront Marathon" after the 2022 race was canceled. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Runners finish the “Not the Lakefront Marathon” after the 2022 race was canceled. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

On your marks, get set, go. Milwaukee will again host a marathon.

On Sunday, Oct. 1, runners will take off from Downtown, running through the East Side and back, crossing the Hoan Bridge, running through two southshore suburbs, crossing the bridge again and finishing at Henry Maier Festival Park.

The Public Works Committee unanimously endorsed an operating agreement for the nonprofit Badgerland Striders organization Wednesday. The approval eliminates a key hurdle that caused the 2022 event to be canceled. The full council will vote on the permit in two weeks.

For four decades the marathon started in suburban Grafton and finished in Milwaukee, but construction on Interstate 43 and other northshore roads has forced the race organizers to seek a new course.

Race director Scott Stauske told the committee that the organization hopes for 4,000 registrations and more than 3,000 race-day participants.

“We are excited to have our first Milwaukee Lakefront, because most of it is along the lakefront, Marathon,” said Stauske of the new course. Registration is available online.

Runners will head along Wisconsin Avenue east from the Baird Center, the site of the race’s expo and packet pickup, before turning north onto N. Prospect Avenue. The Wisconsin Avenue portion of the course is expected to open to the public by 7:40 a.m.

“That’s the extent of my involvement and I have no problem with that,” said committee chair Alderman Robert Bauman of his district. When it comes to the challenges associated with race street closures, Bauman has long been the council’s most outspoken member.

“I am thrilled. I appreciate all of your work on this and in particular all of your outreach,” said Ald. Jonathan Brostoff, whose district will see the most notable street closures.

Runners will proceed north to E. Kenwood Boulevard via streets along the top of the bluff before returning southbound on N. Lincoln Memorial Drive. At E. Clybourn Street, runners will enter Interstate 794, ascending the Hoan Bridge on a fully-closed freeway.

Half-marathon (13.1 miles) participants will turn around near E. Russell Avenue, taking the Hoan Bridge back to the lakefront festival grounds. Full marathon (26.2 miles) runners will continue south to the E. Oklahoma Avenue off-ramp where they will run along S. Kinnickinnic Avenue into the Fernwood neighborhood before doing a down-and-back in St. Francis and Cudahy on S. Lake Drive and the lakefront Oak Leaf Trail. They’ll get back on the freeway at the Port Milwaukee ramp, finishing at the festival grounds.

The 2022 race was canceled in September after Badgerland failed to secure the necessary permits to close the city and county streets. It included closing S. 1st Street, with Department of Public Works (DPW) officials raising the issue that race organizers did not respond to concerns about detours and the process for reopening streets.

The city’s permitting process requires large event organizers to pay for all costs associated with Milwaukee Police Department and DPW staffing and resources.

Stauske said that the State of Wisconsin was not charging the race organizers for the freeway closure.

“See, they don’t need the freeway. Another argument for tearing down 794,” said Bauman. He also suggested future runs should take place on the freeways.

“Are they charging you anything to use the Summerfest grounds?” asked the alderman. Yes, said Stauske. “Figures,” said Bauman.

“How much?” asked Ald. Russell W. Stamper, II.

“It’s very significant,” said the race director. He said he was open to other ideas for the future, but that the covered Sound Waves Stage at Summerfest is helpful in the event of inclement weather. Stauske said it helped build a “world-class” event.

The 2021 event, the last to use the northshore course, drew runners from 46 states and eight countries.

Stamper asked what other cities Badgerland operates races in, but Bauman interjected to say that the Striders are a local, nonprofit group.

“These are the good guys,” said Bauman.

Dating back to 2015, a series of for-profit operators have tried to create a much larger marathon. But that race has been beset by setback after setback. First, the council forced the course to go through more of the city, instead of a route similar to what Badgerland Striders is now proposing. Then, the course ended up being too short for one year’s race and too long for another year. The April 2020 race fell victim to the pandemic and a 2021 resumption was effectively blocked by the city and county for concerns about timing and fears about having enough resources.

A January approval for a March 26 half-marathon was designed to get things going again, only for the race to be canceled because of snow. “Good god, what a disaster that was,” said Bauman. Ventures Endurance, a subsidiary of Gannett, now owns the race.

Fingers crossed that things go better for the Striders’ October race, including for this writer, who is signed up to run.

Conceptual Course Maps

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Related Legislation: File 230433

Categories: Sports

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