For the fourth time in four years, organizers will have to devise a new finish line for the Pittsburgh Marathon.
The Pirates released their 2012 schedule Wednesday, and a May 6 home game against Cincinnati means that the marathon will not be able to use the North Shore location between Heinz Field and PNC Park that served as the finish line in 2011.
A Pirates home game, especially one that will likely start at 1:35 p.m., makes that finish line a logistical impossibility. Race organizer Patrice Matamoros said it takes six days to set up the finish line area, which includes everything from sponsorship tents to a functioning hospital and was erected in areas the Pirates need for fan parking.
Matamoros said she asked Pirates president Frank Coonelly to request a road series that weekend, just as he did last year.
"We're really back at square one," Matamoros said. "Trying to figure out where to go from here."
Pirates senior director of communications Brian Warecki confirmed Coonelly did ask and "actively lobbied" for a road series that weekend, but Major League Baseball denied the request. Warecki said Coonelly pointed out that Major League Baseball is able to schedule the Red Sox at home every year on the day of the Boston Marathon, per the team's request.
"We will continue to press for a permanent agreement with MLB to schedule the Pirates away during the Dick's Sporting Goods Marathon, which we support as a great asset of the city," Warecki said.
Matamoros said organizers had a number of alternatives in mind, the most preferable being a Downtown finish line along the Boulevard of the Allies, which would allow organizers to use Point Park as a staging area. She expects to have a new course finalized within three months.
Once a new route is set, the organizers contact USA Track and Field to certify the route.
Matamoros said the Boulevard of the Allies finish line would cause a minimal change to the course.
"Despite these setbacks, it's minor," Matamoros said. "I'd much rather have this issue than not enough runners."
She doesn't expect the change to impact registration, which sold out in March for the 2011 marathon.
The marathon returned in 2009 after a five-year hiatus due to budget issues, and the inaugural finish line was under the Convention Center awning. The event moved to Liberty Avenue at 11th Street in 2010 before assuming its North Shore location last year. Despite the ever-changing location, Matamoros remained optimistic.
"We're going to create a first-class finish line just like we did last year," she said. "We're going to create an atmosphere where everyone finishes like they're the champion."
General registration for the marathon begins Sept. 27, with a Sept. 26 presale for members of the Hill City Road Runners club.
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1459