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Kevin Schnepf, Published August 21 2013

Fargo Marathon slated May 8-10; events to start and finish downtown

FARGO – Less than six hours after announcing the Fargo Marathon will be next May 15-17, Executive Director Mark Knutson changed the date to May 8-10.

The reason? Motel availability.

The original date of May 17 conflicted with graduation ceremonies at North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University Moorhead.

“We feel that the date conflicts would be very challenging to the runners and the entire Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo community in terms of congestion and lodging issues for all visitors,” Knutson said. “Our goal is to be a good partner of the community, including the universities and the lodging industry.”

The conflict came to light during a Wednesday morning news conference when Knutson announced the marathon would start and finish near downtown to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The last eight marathons have started and ended at the Fargodome.

Knutson said he originally planned to schedule next year’s marathon for May 8-10, but the downtown Fargo Civic Center was booked for another event. Knutson said he did not want to schedule one week later on Memorial Day weekend.

“I underestimated the impact of the commencements at NDSU and MSUM,” Knutson said. “There was a lot of thought put into this before and we were working under the premise that they weren’t going to book as many rooms as they did.”

In an already scheduled meeting Wednesday afternoon with representatives from NDSU, MSUM, the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau and the FM Lodging Association, Knutson learned that a number of rooms were already booked.

“It sounded like we could have had every motel room booked by January if we had kept that date,” Knutson said.

When the announcement of the May 15-17 date was made public, NDSU officials sent out an email alerting students, parents and faculty to book their rooms early.

“I really can’t recall a conflict like this before,” said Kristi Wold-McCormick, the NDSU registrar in charge of graduation for the last 11 years. “We all just wanted a positive experience for all the events.”

McCormick said NDSU’s graduation date is set in stone, based on the North Dakota University System academic calendar.

“The academic year is a little bit later this year and next year,” said McCormick, who had 1,300 participants in last spring’s graduation. “Like the marathon, our numbers are growing, too.”

MSUM officials were ready to alert their students, faculty and parents today. Like NDSU, the MSUM calendar year was set far in advance.

“It would have been a mess,” said MSUM spokesman David Walberg, whose school had 600 participants in last spring’s graduation. “Our concern was the availability of motel rooms.”

Knutson found out late Wednesday that the Fargo Civic Center and the nearby Centennial Hall will now be available. He was told the scheduled event for the May 15-17 weekend changed venues. The Civic Center and Centennial Hall will be used as staging areas for the runners.

“That was a big positive for us,” Knutson said. “I guess somebody was looking out for us.”

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor

Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549