Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Events bureau sells Ely Marathon to Stone Soup

Keith Vandervort
Posted 5/22/19

ELY – An outpouring of community support for Stone Soup Events and owner Wendy Lindsay to continue as the coordinator of the Ely Marathon prompted the Events Coordinator Bureau (ECB) to agree this …

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Events bureau sells Ely Marathon to Stone Soup

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ELY – An outpouring of community support for Stone Soup Events and owner Wendy Lindsay to continue as the coordinator of the Ely Marathon prompted the Events Coordinator Bureau (ECB) to agree this week to sell the event to its founder.

ECB chair Paul Ivancich told the Timberjay on Tuesday that the board agreed in principle for Stone Soup Events to run the 2019 Ely Marathon, and pending the signing of an agreement, will sell the Ely Marathon to Stone Soup Events for $21,000.

“We agreed to the terms we originally discussed and we will leave it up to Wendy on how she wants to pay the cost,” he said. “She could pay $1,000 the first year and $5,000 for the four years after that, or pay it off earlier if she chooses. She has agreed to run the Ely Marathon for at least the next five years. I feel we succeeded in keeping a local vendor, were responsible to the taxpayers, and will keep the Ely Marathon in very good hands.”

Lindsay said she is excited to continue to manage the marathon and is grateful for the community support she received. “This really is an event of the entire Ely community,” she said. “We have plans in place for growth. There is lots of room to make this an even greater event.”

Prior to the Events Coordinator Bureau board meeting on Tuesday morning, as many as a dozen community business owners, Ely Marathon supporters, volunteers, and runners spoke in support of Lindsay and urged the bureau to reconsider their recent action to look for a new marathon coordinator.

Stone Soup Events, the organizing body in charge of conducting the event, was looking to buy the rights to the successful marathon event, now in its fifth year, from the Events Coordinator Bureau.

The Boston Marathon-qualifying event, held in Ely in September, continues to increase in popularity in the marathon community. Upwards of 500 participants entered the full- and half-marathons last year, while the Canoe Marathon, a new element added to the event, made the Guinness Book of World Records. A Kids Run and a Glow Run add to the excitement of the weekend.

Negotiations over the marathon ownership have been ongoing since last fall, but no agreement could be reached and the two sides parted ways earlier this month.

“Wendy (Lindsay) wanted full autonomy and we tried to adhere to her wishes,” Ivancich said. “We felt we made a good offer to her, but we just couldn’t come to an agreement.”

Jason Zabokrtsky, Ely business owner and Chamber of Commerce board member, submitted a memo to the ECB Tuesday where he revealed that the chamber board had unanimously agreed to his motion to sell the Ely Marathon to Stone Soup Events contingent on the agreement of the ECB board.

“Negotiations failed merely due to a disagreement on price,” Zabokrtsky said. “A groundswell of public support has erupted to support Stone Soup Events and there was serious concern expressed about a decision to change race management.”

He noted that once word got out that negotiations failed, community members stepped forward to help crowd-fund the gap between what Lindsay was willing to spend for rights to the event and what ECB was willing to accept. The ECB was seeking $21,000 for the rights to the marathon, while Lindsay reportedly offered $12,000.

“I was really surprised and extremely grateful that so many supporters stepped in with their help to make this happen,” Lindsay said. “All the money we make has gone back into growing the event and we will continue to do that,” she added.

“The return on investment for money put into developing the marathon is the existence of a successful event that brings significant economic activity to the Ely community during the quieter season,” Zabokrtsky said.

Trish Bulinski, who is affiliated with the USA Fit training organization spoke in support of Lindsay’s efforts in organizing the Ely Marathon. “I have watched (the marathon) grow and become better and better and I believe she is the one to continue to do that and I have 100 percent confidence in her and would hate to see it change or the growth of it suffer in any way,” she said.

Other supporters and stakeholders in the Ely Marathon, including Julie Hignell, director of Ely Community Resource, Jess Edberg, director of the Dorothy Molter Museum, Michelle Moore, of Heavy Metal Sport, and others all spoke in support of Lindsay and asked that Stone Soup Events remain as the event’s organizing body.

Amy Cromer, owner of Echo Shores Resort that hosts the start line for the half marathon event said the fact that the ECB is seeking to receive money back from the marathon “almost appears greedy.” She maintained that Ely businesses “should be glad” that the event is held at the end of September. “Personally, Wendy has done nothing but good things and her intention is for this community to grow. Switching it to a different entity at this point in the game could be really detrimental to this race,” she said.

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