Should major, city-marathons in Canada raise their entry fees as cities everywhere download costs; OR cut back on the quality of the ‘marathon experience’ by reducing ‘extras’ like fancy medals and on-course entertainment?
February 12th. Not sure how many of you saw the interesting, major piece in the New York Times on Wednesday about the issue of policing coasts for the New York City Marathon and other road races in Gotham? It was co-authored by Liz Robbins, who wrote the book A Race Like No Other all about the NYC Marathon [see a super 3 minute video with Liz on her book -- a truly great lady as well as journo]. The article is well worth a look, as it really highlights a growing issue facing most, “big-city marathons” across North America. While “city marathons” like New York, Chicago, Houston, LA or Toronto Waterfront have become “the glory in our sport” as IAAF President Lamine Diack said in Athens last Fall, we are all faced with the urban dilemma — the chronic under-funding of cities everywhere. It also underscores how important the “City” is in partnerships with all our races.
According to Wednesday’s article:
By charging a new, separate fee, the [New York] police are trying to offset the rising costs and increasingly burdensome job of shutting down traffic for popular athletic events.
ING NYC Race Director Mary Wittenberg replied that NY Road Runners paid a total of $107,00 for policing for their 7 races on city streets including the NYC Marathon, and that:
if the police department’s proposal were adopted, New York would be the only city hosting a major marathon to ask race directors to pay for the full cost of police coverage. Indeed, the Boston and Chicago Marathons do not pay their police separate fees.
Hey Mary, come to Toronto — plus a bunch of other North America cities! Last September we paid $148,000 for our policing costs for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. And in contrast to Mary’s statement, the chats I have with many other Race Directors, we’re all paying a substantial amount [Montreal is a notable exception where the City provides a substantial grant of "city services"].
Perhaps more important, like NYC, the amounts keep going up, owing to the chronic shortage of $$ in city coffers everywhere. In 2006 our police bill for STWM was just $58,000; now it’s $148,000! And it’s not just the police — its a wide range of City services. In 2006 we paid $1,300 to the TTC for STWM-related expenses; in 2010 the figure was $29,000! We also paid for hydrants to be capped, expressway ramps to be closed, garbage to be picked up, cones and barricades and traffic signs to be put out.
Don’t get me wrong. This is NOT a rant about City costs, its a ponderous piece on how the chronic underfunding of cities across the continent is leading to the downloading of every cost imaginable onto races, other events and festivals. And the trend is only going to continue.
Cheryl and I are off to San Antonio later today for the annual Running USA Conference. It is THE Conference in North America for the entire running industry. I’m going to ask some questions of all our RD buddies out there and find out a little more precise detail on “city costs” and get back to you next week. Stay tuned!
For now, however, we can still ask “what does it mean for our events and for all of us — organizers and participants?” At present, our CRS Team are finishing up our 2011 budgeting and we have been, like the City, going through every facet of all our events, line by line. We’ve never done it THIS determinedly, and we’ll continue to do this. We also have a GREAT relationship with the City of Toronto, and they are GREAT partners – including Council and City Staff [Transportation, Economic Development], and Police and TTC.
The only other option we have to meticulously controlling costs and negotiating with the City to mitigate the increasing fees that are unstopable, is increasing “User fees”, ie. Entry fees. So far, I think STWM and Canadian races have remained comparatively, VERY, affordable. Today, STWM is $85 + 13% HST ($11.05) + $6 online processing fee = $102.05. Ottawa Marathon is $100 [Late fee $125] + $6.50 processing fee. In comparison, Chicago this year is $145 for US residents and $170 for international runners; Los Angeles is similarly $145 (US participants), $170 (International runners); New York is a stunning $196 for US residents and $281 for non-Americans PLUS $11 processing fees!
What do YOU say?
– Should races pay 100% of City costs?
– Should Canada’s major marathons like STWM and Ottawa raise their entry fees to internationally competitive levels and offer more of a BIG BANG show/experience rather than cut costs by cutting back on “extras” like fancy medals, on-course entertainement, guest speakers, Marathon Flame or similar features?
More on this when I get back from San Antonio… stay tuned…