By RUSS BYNUM
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - Savannah officials are expecting a tourism windfall from thousands of runners as the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon returns to the Georgia coast.
Race organizers say 17,000 runners have registered for the Saturday event, which spices up the traditional marathon formula by placing rock bands and cheerleaders along the course.
Mayor Edna Jackson and other city leaders planned a kickoff news conference Thursday to welcome visitors for what's expected to be Savannah's biggest tourism event after its famed St. Patrick's Day celebration.
A study from last year's marathon estimated it brought Savannah $32 million in direct spending. But downtown retailers say they saw little of the profits enjoyed by hotels and restaurants.
Savannah officials have made changes to encourage runners to spend more time and money downtown this year.