Organizers of the Around the Bay Road race say they won’t be looking back at the prospect of including FirstOntario Centre in their next event following news of a “renovation timeline shift” allowing some tenants to use the venue in the first part of 2024.
For close to two decades, the typical starting point for the March race has been the corner of York and Bay with a finish inside the arena downtown.
However, word that the Oak View Group (OVG) and partner Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG) would be embarking on large-scale downtown redevelopment had the race planners roll out changes for 2024.
Last week, OVG told Global News that despite some “preliminary work” starting early in the new year, the Toronto Rock lacrosse team would be able to use the arena for their entire season between December and the end of April.
Originally, the group stated no events would be able to run at the venue past the end of 2023 due to the “expanded scope” of the renovation, making it “impossible” for the tenants to play through it.
Around the Bay organizer Anna Lewis says despite the change, their plan is to stay on course for a start and finish now earmarked for Tim Hortons Field.
“I think we had to move forward with (those) plans and now that the plans have started, we’re just going to make it to the finish line with Tim Hortons,” Lewis said.
The change will push the traditional 30-kilometre event to something more in the range of 31 to 32 kilometres due to mapping a new route and need to avoid some active railway tracks.
“We still want it to be around the bay, so it has to go around the water, but I think we can do that and we’ve looked at a number of routes,” said Lewis.
Ten-kilometre and 15-kilometre races will also be added to the Bay Race weekend in 2024, while the 30-kilometre relay is being discontinued for logistical reasons.
The 2023 in-person race is March 24, with the virtual race — run using an entrant’s own personal route — set for a period between March 1 and March 31.
Some 6,500 runners are expected to compete in-person.
Lewis says it’s too early to say if next year’s change will be temporary or permanent.
“I think it is really exciting to have such a great history with the route, so we are keeping most of it,” she said.
“But sometimes it’s nice to have a little bit of like a refresh to it.”
The benefactor of the race will once again be the St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation, who has been a charity partner since 2005.
Over $5 million has been raised over the years to support patient care and research at the hospital.
Registration for the race can be completed on the Around The Bay website.