Let's Put On a Race

A few columns ago we lamented the passing of several local races - 28 to be exact. So why is it so hard to maintain a road race, anyway?

For the answer, let’s eavesdrop on the town council of Pancake Flats, as they discuss putting on a local 5K. Maybe we’ll learn a bit about race economics and politics. The Mayor is presiding.

Ms. Mayor: “Let’s schedule the 5K for the first Sunday in May in order to show off our city, bring in tourists, and get our families fit and healthy. Let’s try to get 300 people.”

Minister Brown: “But Ms. Mayor, Sunday is the Lord’s day. We don’t want people staying away from Church.”

Ms. Mayor: “Can we do Saturday then, Rabbi Ginsburg?”

Rabbi: “Vell, I von’t run … but it vill be ok, ve’ll suffer through it.”

Ms. Mayor: “I thought we’d start at the town square and run south on 2nd street and turn around and come back.”

Mrs. Smith: “Then no one will see our businesses on the north side of town! Let’s start at Northside Mall and run to the Town Square instead.”

Ms. Mayor: “If we do that, we’ll need buses to take people back to the start area when the race is over. I’m sure the school district or the transit company will donate them for such a fine cause.”

Mrs. Williams (Head of the School Board) and Mr. Richards (President of the transit company) both speak at the same time: “Hey - times are tough, budgets are restricted, gas is prohibitive, insurance is expensive, we have to pay overtime on Saturday, and you’ll need 8 buses and drivers and the minimum rental is 4 hours. The best we can do is - and this is a bargain - $6,500.”

Mr. Randazzo (head of the Town Council): “While we’re talking about money, even though this is a city event, you need to pay the City’s event fee of $500 and the use fee for the Town Square of $500.”

Mr. Badge (Chief of Police): “For all those road closures, we’ll need a dozen officers for overtime on Saturday to handle traffic control. That will be $2,000. And don’t forget you’ve got to close the freeway offramps at 2nd street, so you’ll need State Dept. of Transportation permits for $500.”

Mr. Clean (Chief of Sanitation): “Make sure we have enough porta potties. They’re $50 each and $100 for the disabled ones. You can never have too many potties. I’ll provide 10 of each at the start and finish areas, and 3 at each aid station. There’s also a cleanup fee at the end. Total cost will be about $2,000.”

Ms. Mayor: “Why do we need disabled porta potties at a race?”

Mr. Clean: “State law, for spectators, and you might have some wheelchair participants. And I almost forgot - we want a Green race don’t we? That costs another $750.”

Ms. Mayor: “Green race?! What makes our race Green?”

Mr. Clean: “We leave no environmental footprint. Just let me worry about that. That’s what you pay me for.”

Mr. Fabrizzi (union representative): “I’ll make you a deal - we’ll charge you rock bottom for setting up the tables and awards stands and everything you need at the finish line. I can get my guys for $3,000. Set up, take down. No worries.”

Ms. Mayor: “This is getting out of hand. Why can’t we just have some volunteers set up the tables?”

Mr. Fabrizzi: “It’s a Union town. That’s how you got elected, Ms. Mayor. No one sets up an event without Union workers.”

Ms. Mayor: “How about you Mrs. Smith - you’re the Pancake Flats running club President. What do the runners want?”

Mrs. Smith: “We expect the Pancake Flats 5K to have all the usual amenities of other races. The course needs to be USATF certified ($1,800) and sanctioned ($300). We want long sleeve technical-fabric shirts for all participants ($4,500), and finishers medals for everyone ($1100). Awards 5 deep in each 5 year age group for both men and women from under 15 to 85 and over ($3,000) are standard. We need large, highly visible mile markers ($1,000). Rock bands at each mile and at the finish area ($2,500) would be great. We also need chip timing and timing mats at each mile so we can see our splits on the Internet the next day. ($10,000). That’s about it.”

Ms. Mayor: “Is that ALL?”

Mrs. Smith: “Well, that’s not counting food - coffee at the start, and a buffet at the finish. Not just the usual bananas, gatorade, and power bars – but maybe free beer, bratwurst, pancakes, or sandwiches. Great food gets you a lot more runners for sure. ($3,000)

Ms Mayor: “And I’d like to ask the City Attorney, Mr. Litigation, what do you think?”

Mr. Litigation: “We need race liability. I’d say about $1,000 for race day insurance. Don’t forget medical support and two ambulances and doctors on duty just in case anything happens ($3,000). And we need communication systems to make sure this all works ($2,500).

Ms. Mayor: “Wow. Is there anything I’ve forgotten?”

Mrs. Smith: “We haven’t mentioned basic race expenses: advertising ($1,000), race bibs ($200), printing of race brochures and entry blanks ($1,500), creating and managing a race website ($1,500), start and finish banners and traffic control signage ($3,000). Most races collect money for charity as well, maybe $10,000 donated to some local causes.”

Ms. Mayor: “I’d like to ask Mr. Balance, our City Treasurer, based on our discussion today to compute what our race entry fee would be to break even.”

Mr. Balance: “Well, we have around $70,000 in expenses and I’m sure we’ve forgotten some so let’s round it to $75,000. We’re expecting 300 runners, so we’ll have to charge $250 for our 5K in order to break even.”

Mrs. Smith: “That’s CRAZY. No runners will show up at that price. The city of Rolling Hills has a 5K that’s only $25.”

Ms. Mayor: “Yes, but our Pancake Flats will be the BEST 5K EVER!”

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