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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
Change was inevitable. Plans have been discussed since January.
Jason Altman and his staff made sure it wouldn't be perceived as a negative.
For its first 14 years, the races that comprise the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon have finished on the 50-yard line of Neyland Stadium on the University of Tennessee campus.
That tradition will change — at least for a while.
Citing stadium renovation work that will begin soon after the completion of the 2018 football season, UT officials have informed race organizers that the finish line will have to be re-located for the 2019 event, set for March 30-31.
All the events — Saturday's 5K and Kids' Run, as well as Sunday's Marathon and Half Marathon — will finish at World's Fair Park.
"The University of Tennessee has always been an awesome partner," Altman said Monday. "It's been more than just the stadium. We've had their help with traffic and so many other details that go into a race so big."
Altman said the intention was to announce the change before the opening of online registration Wednesday. There will also have to be course alterations. The target date for the course to be finalized is late November.
More than 8,300 registered for the two days of events this past March.
Instead of dwelling on the situation as a negative, Altman — who is in his 13th year at the helm — and his staff have focused on the positive.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that people will see us as more than just Neyland Stadium," Altman said. "A big change like this always brings trepidation. We wanted to look at what we can do at World's Fair Park that we couldn't do at the stadium."
The solution was to hold a party.
"We're going to add a post-race party atmosphere that there just wasn't room for in the stadium," said Altman. "We're talking food trucks, beer tents. We'll have the Sunsphere, one of the iconic pieces of the Knoxville skyline. It will be bigger than we've ever had.
Every year people ask, 'What's new? What's different?' Well, this is new and different. We're looking forward to what it will be this year."
Altman said the races will continue to wind through neighborhoods of the city and should also cover a portion of the UT campus.
"This is one of East Tennessee's top events," Altman said. "It has so much more of an identity than the 50-yard line of Neyland Stadium."
Al Lesar is a freelance contributor.
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