Spokane area loses millions by postponing Bloomsday, other sporting events

SPOKANE, Wash. —Forty-four years of tradition. For some runners and walkers, that means decades of a routine now disrupted. 

That isn’t stopping some of them from giving up tradition. It just might look a little different. 

“It’s awkward, it’s strange, it’s a bit unsettling,” said Jon Neill, Bloomsday Race director. 

Streets where some 50,000 runners would ordinarily be this Sunday will stay eerily quiet. 

“It’s the first weekend in May, you have to run Bloomsday,” said runner Jen Westra. “So we met up with some friends, we ran safely and distancing of course and we just did the course because it wouldn’t feel like the first weekend of May without that.” 

The race has been postponed to September because of COVID-19. The event is a staple in the Spokane community. Thousands of people from all over would come to the Lilac City to run the 12K race.

Because normally Westra would be with her family this weekend, they’re holding a ‘Zoomsday’ Sunday instead.

“We’re all required to wear a Bloomsday shirt, ” she said laughing. “Just to catch up, to at least have part of our normal tradition.”

READ: Spokane’s running statues celebrate Bloomsday 2020 until we can 

“I know that the outpouring of support, just when these went up yesterday, and everyone just marveling ‘Bloomsday is here,’” said Neill. “It may not be held the first Sunday of May, but we’re certainly going to have it on September 20.” 

It’s a loss not just for the athletes, but felt region-wide. 

Just like other businesses, Teresa Gonder, who owns Tamarack Public House, has lost a lot of money because of COVID-19. 

“Thousands and thousands of dollars. Yeah, just for this evening, it could’ve been close to five grand,” Gonder said.

Saturday night she was booked with reservations with the same customers year after year for the race, but now her patio will be empty.

“It’s temporary. That’s what we all have to look at, it’s not, this isn’t going to define who Spokane is or any place else in this world right now,” Gonder said.

On a Saturday during what was supposed to be a lunch rush, Sprague Avenue had few cars on the road. Tamarack Public House is located right across the street from the Bing Crosby Theater and the Knitting Factory – all now empty with marquee’s telling people to ‘Stay Well’ and to ‘Be Kind and ‘Be Safe.’

“It’s a huge financial hit for all of our partners, hotels, restaurants, retail, our attractions, everything,” said Meg Winchester with Visit Spokane. 

In March alone, the Spokane Sports Commission says Spokane lost more than $20 million in revenue. Since the beginning of March and estimated through May, the commission says more than 25 sporting events had to be canceled or postponed.

Regionally, that estimates a more than $40 million economic impact.

Still, there is hope ahead as we look toward the finish line.

“Who knows, we may have this fabulous fall race and we may have what Spokane has come to know and love: Bloomsday in the spring. Maybe there’s a possibility we have two races, big races, in Spokane,” Neill said.

Postponing the race to September gained some new people registering. Neill said on the day the organization announced the postponement, they saw about 18,000 people sign up.

“It was one of our great registration years, we were well ahead of where we’ve been the last couple of years,” Neill said.

Winchester says Visit Spokane is staying positive and looking toward the future in helping people.

They anticipate a “pent up demand” as many are itching to get out into the community again. When that time comes, Winchester believes when people look to book their next vacation, safety will be a big priority.

“We are working with everyone, both association, state, federal to get all of the corporations too, the hotels, to get all the protocols in place that they’re doing so we have all that in one place. So, when people do come back to visit the Spokane region they know that all our protocols are in and it’s a safe place to visit,” she said.

READ: Bloomsday postponed until September due to COVID-19