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More, again, for Corrigan

corrigan sports baltimore running festivalFor the 12th year in a row, Corrigan Sports Enterprises is doing more for its signature event, the Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival.

More runners, more sponsors, more volunteers, more charitable donations, more TV airtime.

About 27,000 runners from the Baltimore area and beyond will flock to downtown streets Saturday morning. The event has become a Charm City staple thanks to the keen business minds of Lee Corrigan and his close-knit team of 13 people.

The festival drew about 6,500 participants in 2001, a number that increased 10-to-20 percent each year. Its estimated economic impact has soared from less than $10 million to about $30.5 million last year, according to a study by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute.

The festival’s success is even more impressive considering it was the brainchild of a guy whose company was… sort of an accident.

He was in the right place, at the right time, with the right skill set.

Back in the 1980s, Corrigan was working for the athletic department at the University of Maryland, College Park when one of the scoreboard screens “literally exploded.” But the department was still reeling from the media storm surrounding basketball player Len Bias’ death, and couldn’t exactly afford new screens, he said.

So officials worked out a deal with an equipment company that agreed to provide them. Corrigan was asked to find sponsors for the screens. In return, Corrigan said, he’d get 15 percent of ad sales.

By 1991, he’d accumulated enough money on the side that he needed to account for the extra income. Before he knew it, his accountant was inquiring what he’d like to call his new company.

Poof – Corrigan Sports Enterprises was born.

For its first eight years, Corrigan said, the company was nothing more than a way to keep things straight with the IRS. But the idea of a marathon event in Baltimore tugged at Corrigan. So, armed with connections within the city and a keen eye for business, he approached city officials with a plan.

Back in 2000, state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, a Democrat representing Baltimore City, pressed other officials to support the event, and at a press conference on Thursday, she again sung its praises.

She congratulated Corrigan and his team for latching onto Baltimore residents’ pride to produce a successful event year after year.

“Nobody has done a better job of making marathons work than Lee Corrigan,” she said.

And of the estimated $30.5 million in economic impact, she added: “You can’t get much better than that.”

Want more numbers? Here you go:

26.2 miles: Distance of the marathon

$ 8 million: The festival’s total charitable donations

5 hours: Amount of  continuous, race-day airtime on WBAL-TV, plus a 5-year exclusive TV contract

Somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000: What Corrigan owes WBAL, after negotiating sponsorship and TV coverage agreements

500 – 700: The number of volunteers typically needed each year

$167.9 million: Under Armour Inc.’s total marketing expenses last year, including sponsorships like the running festival