Wellstone’s Dallas White Rock Marathon next Sunday will serve as a dramatic 26.2-mile race to “Victory” – literally and figuratively – for elite and recreational runners.
Race organizers envision high-energy starting and finishing points just south of American Airlines Center for participants, outstanding viewing for spectators and convenience – including easy access, shopping, dining and lodging – for all.
This artist’s conception envisions a festive scene in Victory Plaza outside American Airlines Center.
“This is definitely one of the most exciting finishes of any race,” said Jeff Bail, a consultant to the marathon who helped land the event’s title sponsor. “The footprint is absolutely one of the most unique of any race in the United States, if not the world. It’s extremely conducive to gathering major crowds and has audio-visual stimulation that is unparalleled at any race, anywhere.”
When Hillwood Capital broke ground on AAC in 1999, developer Ross Perot envisioned the area becoming a Madison Square Garden-type district for big events such as the marathon.
“It was really important to him to get the marathon here,” said Missy Wyszynski, director of marketing for Hillwood Capital, the project’s developer. “There was a lot of planning for big events. … [Perot] wanted it to be the public gathering place for Dallas that could host world-class events, be pedestrian friendly and have dining, entertainment, shopping, living and working.”
Starting and finishing the marathon in the heart of Victory Park offers many positives – both for participants and spectators.
The upscale W Hotel opened in June and will house elite runners. This is seen as a huge plus in the effort to attract world-class runners. Runners can step off the elevator, exit the hotel and be at the starting line. At many marathons, simply arriving at the starting line can be stressful and time-consuming because of the need to use mass transit or navigate crowded parking lots or closed roads.
Spectators in the plaza area just north of the finish line can watch Channel 8’s live race coverage on 11 large, high-definition LED video screens. Anyone hanging around the arena or the TGI Friday’s “Thank Goodness I Finished” line can watch the marathon action – larger than life – as it unfolds.
“At most races, tens of thousands of people are standing around, and they don’t see what is going on,” said Bail, the chief marketing officer of North American Events Group. “That’s a big problem in marathons in general. This is extremely conducive to gathering major crowds.”
Even the top runners will enjoy watching themselves cross the finish line, said elite coordinator Larry Barthlow, who has a pair of 2-hour, 11-minute Kenyan men committed to race here.
“They know our sport needs more hoopla, more excitement at the finish line,” Barthlow said of the elite runners. “It has to be a total entertainment package now. People want it all. It’s not just about crossing the finish line and getting your medal and going home.”
The men’s and women’s winners will be whisked a few yards from the finish line to Belo’s new WFAA Victory Plaza broadcast studio to be interviewed by race commentators Todd Whitthorne and 1972 Olympic gold medalist Frank Shorter.
“There is no race in the United States that has a television partner three feet from the finish line with studios right there,” Bail said. “It’s a live broadcast. It makes it more of an exciting happening.”
From the finish line, the runners, their friends and family members will then meander inside the arena, where there will be food, beverages, entertainment and seating. The arena offers a haven in case of inclement weather. It’s also a convenient location for overflow crowds to gather and celebrate with runners.
For the postrace scene, a few restaurants and retail stores have opened for business and many more are on the way.
“We conceptualized an area focused on high energy, restaurants and entertainment,” said Jonas Woods, president of Hillwood Capital. “Let’s create Dallas’ version of Times Square.”
Aware of Perot’s vision, running enthusiast Chuck Dannis, now the marathon’s board chairman, dreamed of a plan to catapult the Dallas marathon from a regional race to one of the country’s major international events.
Dannis said he envisions tens of thousands of spectators lining the course from AAC to White Rock Lake and back. Crowds will converge in the area between the two buildings outside the south entrance to the arena to watch the finish on giant video screens and await participants.
“Victory is the overall concept,” Woods said. “The whole idea is the accomplishments of the human spirit, the struggles and successes that come about as a result of the human spirit. That’s the soul behind the name. It conveys the idea of the human spirit and the pursuit to be victorious.”
What a finish
The Dec. 10 Wellstone’s Dallas White Rock Marathon begins and ends near the American Airlines Center. Spectators and participants can watch WFAA’s live race coverage on 11 large high-definition, LED video screens in the plaza area just south of the AAC.