Newly enforced rules for groups using the state Capitol grounds have driven Montana's annual Race for the Cure to Missoula after 21 years in Helena.
Susan G. Komen of Idaho and Montana hosts the annual race, which drew nearly 900 participants and generated $15,590 for the fight against breast cancer in May.
The event has resulted in a variety of extra expenses for the state, said Amber Conger, communications director with the Montana Department of Administration. And the state has a responsibility to recoup these costs going forward so they are not passed along to taxpayers, she said.
The state has paid maintenance and grounds personnel to attend events held on the Capitol grounds to protect the property, ensure public safety and help the sponsoring organizations, Conger said. The state also paid for repairs after someone pierced a pipe with a tent stake during Race for the Cure, she said.
"Given the current budget crisis, it is even more important that we remain fiscally prudent and responsible with our resources," she said. "Race for the Cure staff was notified last year that these longstanding policies would be enforced going forward and as such, (the organization) decided to move the event."
Conger also said state officials have voiced concerns about the group leaving large tent stakes unattended, which was "a tripping hazard and a public safety issue."
The organization's Executive Director Jodi Weak said it would be unreasonable for the organization to pay for event security to monitor the tent stakes around the clock. While Conger said state officials did not specifically tell the organization to do so, "to leave the stakes unattended was a safety concern on our end."
"We were open to working with them to keep the event in Helena and this is an unfortunate outcome," Conger said. "We are sorry to see them go and are optimistic that we could host the event here again in the future."
According to Weak, the Capitol grounds "just wouldn’t have been a feasible space for us any longer."
She said the organization's board of directors considered relocating the race to another part of Helena but ended up going with Missoula instead.
"We just didn't feel that there was a great place to hold it in Helena that weekend," she said.
Weak said most of the participants in the annual event have come from Helena or the surrounding area. While she expects to lose some of them as a result of the move, the event could gain some new participants from the Missoula area.
“We just thought we’d try a new city and see if it would increase race participation and grow our event,” she said, adding “We would certainly love to have the people who participated in Helena come to Missoula."
The location of the Missoula race will be announced after the permitting process is completed, Weak said. Registration will start in July and the race will take place Oct. 13, 2018.
Weak said the proceeds from the event have been used throughout Montana, not just in Helena. And that will not change as a result of the move.
“We really appreciate all of the support we’ve had in Helena over the past 21 years,” she said, adding that the change is purely the result of the circumstances. “We weren’t necessarily looking to move.”