Building the Marathon Coach World Headquarters | Marathon Coach

Building the Marathon Coach World Headquarters

A 40-Year Anniversary Story

Since its founding in 1983, the Marathon Coach name has been synonymous with luxury, quality and innovation. The company’s passionate commitment to becoming the world’s leading luxury bus converter led to rapid early growth in sales and reputation and caught the eye of a man named Robert Schoellhorn.

Eight years after the first Marathon Coach was built, the charismatic entrepreneur purchased one of his own, a decision that soon would set in motion much more than the just the wheels of the new owner’s coach. That purchase would lead to another and mark the beginning of the company’s journey from its original small production operation spread across multiple buildings to today’s expansive, everything-under-one-roof Marathon World Headquarters.

On Left: Robert Schoellhorn’s Marathon – Coach #9175, On Right: Robert Schoellhorn

But, first, back to Marathon’s beginnings in a small warehouse on Fifth Avenue and Bertelsen Road in Eugene, Oregon. It may have been a modest facility, but Marathon employees made sure it was done right, building everything themselves, from the workbenches to the separators between workstations they customized to suit their specialized needs.

Above: Marathon Coach Buildings at 5th Ave. and Bertelson Rd.

Current employees like Vice President of Interior Design Alan Christianson, Marathon’s very first employee, and Production Engineer Mark Williams remember that first facility fondly – lots of hard work, many late nights and possibly a party or two, all creating a culture of camaraderie that infected employees and customers alike, including that relatively new Marathon Coach owner “Bob” Schoellhorn.

On Left and Right: Marathon Coach Production Floor – 1980’s

The small warehouse served the company well for several years, but with continued success Marathon grew ever larger, and “small” grew unworkable. In 1989, the company moved production into a second facility at First Avenue and Bertelsen Road, keeping service and paint in the Fifth Avenue building and leasing another building on Commercial Street to house company headquarters, manufacturing and sales, including a lot for new and pre-owned coaches.

On Left: Bob Schoellhorn in a Marathon Coach, Top Right: Alan Christianson with Clients -1980’s, Bottom Right: Marathon Coach Production Floor – 1980’s

While that was a workable solution, the idea of a larger custom facility, where manufacturing, sales, service and headquarters all co-existed under one roof, was never far from the minds of the owners.

At the same time, Marathon, both the luxury coach and the company, were never far from the mind of Schoellhorn, who had purchased his in 1991. On his maiden voyage, while driving it to the Oregon Coast, on winding Hwy 126, he had an unfortunate minor brush with a guard rail. After returning to Marathon’s facility to have the resulting scratch alongside his coach repaired, Schoellhorn found himself taken by the infectious enthusiasm and pride each employee he encountered shared. A lot of people would have written a complimentary note to the company owner; Bob Schoellhorn wrote an offer to buy into the company. Christianson remembers it all very well.

“I’ve always wanted to find that barrier Bob scraped and leave a commemorative plaque on it,” he says. “Because that was the beginning of the company we have today.”

Schoellhorn believed from the start that Marathon Coach was already the best Prevost bus converter in the world. However, he quickly had a vision for even greater things for the company. He believed that to achieve these aspirations, the company needed an all-inclusive facility specifically designed for building, servicing and selling coaches. When progress on his proposed expansion stalled with the other company owners, Schoellhorn immediately brought it back to life by purchasing the company.

Top Image: Marathon Coach Production Floor in New Headquarters – 1994, Bottom Images from Left to Right: Metal Fabrication Department, Merchandising Show Trailer Under Construction, Craftsman at Work, Cabinetry Department

The new 150,000-square-foot facility would be located on a prime location adjacent to Interstate 5 carefully chosen for its visibility, and Chambers Construction Company was hired to build it. The project would take 13 months to complete — four to develop the land and nine to finish the facility. Many of the facility’s finishing touches were fabricated and installed by Marathon employees. This included the lobby ceiling, curved Corian on the staircase and tile flooring as well as the fence surrounding the facility.

“That’s the kind of talent we have always had on our team,” says Production Engineer Mark Williams.

Marathon craftspeople also built furniture, cabinets and doors, bringing the standards set for the coaches they build into their new workspace. Koa laminate and wood made up the wainscot paneling throughout the building, and grain-matched laminate on furniture tied the offices together. Long conference room tables. which had to be assembled in their corresponding rooms, are still beautiful all these years later.

“You couldn’t find anything on the market better than what our craftspeople could build,” says Christianson.

By April 1994 everything, from Marathon’s corporate offices to cabinetry, upholstery and paint, were under one roof, with most of the move happening in a single weekend.

On Left: Summer 1994 Edition of The Maratime Featuring Marathon’s Grand Opening Ralley, Top Right: Bird’s Eye View of Marathon’s Grand Opening Ralley – 1994, Middle Right: Exit 199 to Coburg Sign Next to Marathon Coach Inc. Sign, Bottom Right: Bird’s Eye View of Marathon’s Grand Opening Ralley -1994

“Production couldn’t stop,” Williams says. “So, we did the move on Saturday and Sunday and then went back to work on Monday to keep the production schedule on track.”

Once it was completed, the new Marathon facility became the only one in the world built specifically for bus conversions. Among its many state-of-the-art features is a centralized parts room, strategically placed between the production floor, cabinet shop and service, which dramatically increases efficiency through every step of the conversion process.

Top Left: Marathon Coach Staff Outside of Headquarters – 1994, Top Right: Marathon Coach Headquarters Lobby – 2011, Bottom: Marathon Coach Headquarters with Coaches – 1994

Once it was completed, the new Marathon facility became the only one in the world built specifically for bus conversions. Among its many state-of-the-art features is a centralized parts room, strategically placed in the center of all other manufacturing departments, which dramatically increases efficiency through every step of the conversion process.

“We have the best facility in the world,” Williams adds. “It’s designed specifically for coaches and custom coach conversion. Nobody else has anything near what this facility is capable of doing.”

As the first large facility built off I-5 exit 199 in Coburg, Marathon Coach was just the second occupant of what has since become a busy industrial hub. The building’s iconic and hard-to-miss lighted sign was the brainchild of past Marathon’s engineers and metal fabricators. Initially lit by color-changing fiberoptic cables, the sign’s colors flowed and shifted around the illuminated “Marathon.”

Today’s sign is lit by more efficient and brighter LEDS, leaving an even more outstanding and memorable first impression on the thousands of drivers cruising past daily on I-5.

“The scale of what we did in Coburg had to represent what we are and what we do,” says Christianson. “We’re the best in the world at building these coaches, and we want that to be apparent in everything we do.”

Above: Marathon Coach Headquarters with Marathon Coach #1387 – 2024

The Marathon Coach World Headquarters, affectionately referred to by many as the Mothership, has now been the company’s home for 30 of its 40 years. Over 1,100 of the nearly 1,400 Prevost busses Marathon has converted into luxury coaches have travelled their first few miles leaving this impressive facility. Like those coaches, the facility has stood the test of time and will be foundation for Marathon’s bright future.

“Almost 30 years after it was completed, this facility is serving us and our customers every bit as well as it did when it first opened,” says Steve Schoellhorn, Bob’s son and current Marathon President and Owner.


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