By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Need a challenge? Try the Oxford Endurance Weekend – a combination of biking, running and swimming that will be staged during the dog days of summer – Aug. 13-15.
Aldermen approved paying Memphis-based Start2Finish $18,500, including monies designated for tourism-related grants, to stage the inaugural three-day athletic event, which promoters expect to attract some 500 participants, many of whom will bring family members with them to visit the city.
The event will include five different competitions – a 5K run on Friday evening, a sprint triathlon and bike time trial on Saturday morning, a bike road race around Taylor on Saturday afternoon, and a small-course bicycle criterium that will close the Square to motorized traffic for a time on Sunday morning.
Board members Ernest “E.O.” Oliver and Ney Williams expressed concern about the price tag for the event.
“Did we shop around for this service? Did we get another bid?” Oliver asked.
City Planner Tim Akers acknowledged that Start2Finish was the only management service engaged.
“There may be another one, but I don’t know of one,” he said. “All the big races in the Southeast, they put them on.”
The same promotion company manages races across the MidSouth, including the Corinth Coca-Cola 10K and the Memphis in May Triathlon.
Mayor George “Pat” Patterson said the only way to develop new tourism events is to take a calculated risk.
“I know 15 years ago if the board hadn’t taken a chance on something new with a guy named Patterson and some other tourism folks, we wouldn’t be sitting on top of something called ‘Double Decker,'” he said, referring to this weekend’s arts-and-music festival that often attracts more than 30,000 to the Oxford Square.
In the final tally, aldermen voted 5-2 to sponsor Oxford Endurance Weekend, with Williams and Oliver dissenting.