Saturday, January 12, 2013

Trans Iowa V9: Thinking About Entry Fees

For the price of a post card...
Today is the day folks will be scrambling to get on-line and enter the Dirty Kanza 200. It is a super popular event that draws a lot of riders to Kansas' Flint Hills region every late May/Early June. Promoter Jim Cummings has grown the event from a gathering of rag tag riders that no one knew were there to a spectacle of Emporia Kansas late spring culture that commands the closing down of half the downtown these days.

Events that are shorter/easier have been added, ways to support charities have been added, and even a full support sponsorship type package has been arranged for which you can pay a company to allow you the best chance of finishing the event. (Hey- it ain't my personal idea of how it should be done, but it isn't my gig.) I imagine there is liability insurance in there as well. Point is, all this costs money and time, so the DK 200 event fee is very close to triple digits these days.

I've seen a few folks grousing about that, but ya know- services and benefits cost money. The more an event promoter provides, the more it costs somebody. Who that somebody is can be a moving target based upon several factors, but trust me, nothing is free. Not Almanzo 100, not Trans Iowa, not the little gravel grinder in North Dakota you heard about. Nope- somebody always pays.

Take Almanzo as an example. Promoter Chris Skogen has given the racers at that event cue sheets, race packets, and the like that are better than some wedding invitations I've seen. Not to mention the sattelite events- The Royal 165 and Dirty Nellie, and all of the foot race stuff besides. All at no cost to the attendee, but make no mistake- that fancy-pants race packet cost someone some cabbage. The services and benefits, ya'all- and by all accounts, Mr. Skogen has invested dearly. To the point that several Minneapolis based concerns have stepped in to help raise funds to allow Mr. Skogen's vision to continue. They are asking for donations, and had an apparel buy in, and a party. All to pay for the event. Remember- somebody always pays.

So- what about Trans Iowa? Well, of course, it is all about services and benefits. Trans Iowa is stripped down, lean, and doesn't offer you much of anything besides the raw challenge of riding 300 plus miles self supported. That's intentional.

I don't want to make T.I. "bigger", and T.I. isn't some cultural epiphany with trappings worthy of an art show. Trans Iowa doesn't have a closed down main street with a band playing, nor does it have event insurance or sanctioning from anybody. So- it doesn't cost a whole lot to do this. I am not indicting those events that are growing into the visions their promoters have. No- they can do what they want with no quarrel from my side of the aisle. I'm just saying that if there is more offered- there is more costs involved, and sometimes that cost gets shifted off the promoter to fund raising, or directly to the attendees themselves.

But back to Trans Iowa- What you do see there is generally freely offered. The space for the Pre-Race Meat-Up, the nutritional items, the volunteer help, and any prizing we offer. All supplied at zero cost to Trans Iowa- but it cost those that the benefits came from. Sometimes there is a reward greater than the costs, (pre-race comes to mind), but more often than not, at Trans Iowa at least, you are riding there on the backs of a lot of folks efforts and investment.

So while Trans Iowa has no entry fee, the event is not free. I've been pretty vocal about this in the past. I am not complaining, mind you, but to my mind, there is a distinct difference as to expectations from an event depending on if the cost of doing something is on the promoter or on the attendee. As a rider, you have the freedom of choice where your dollar gets spent, or not. But the bottom line is, it's your vote. If you do not agree with high entry fees, or conversely, if "free" events don't seem to have their stuff together enough for your tastes, don't complain, just don't spend the time to come to that event. Simple.

Of course, considered, critical opinions are always acceptable to me concerning Trans Iowa, but generally those that give the offering of praise or criticism carry more influence if they have actually ridden in the event. I would assume the same for most promoters/organizations that do this sort of stuff. But be that as it may, the bottom line for me is that if you've invested something: Time, money, and physical/mental efforts, then you've got a stump to stand on. Entry fees and costs are a part of that equation.

Some things to consider before you sign on for that next event.


Johann Rissik said...

I haven't ridden TI and most likely never will (other side of the world for me) but I do have an opinion on the matter....
Firstly, there is a place for both types of events (entry fee plus goody bag and entry free and no goody bag)
I prefer the latter, simply because they attract a different type of rider, probably more my type of person.
Secondly, the bigger, funded events tend to crowd out the smaller "community-based" rides.
To some extent, the "funded" rides get the coverage and attract more sheeple, but then, to be fair, the sheeple need something to do;)

The "unfunded" rides involve local communities to a greater extent and enable locals to get involved; in the longer term building something that lasts.

I speak from experience, living in a small town in SA where the two polar opposites of events pass through. One grows the local scene, the other simply takes and leaves.

My 5 cents (and I'll be watching TI closely )

Matt Maxwell said...

A co-worker brought up the DK entry fee yesterday and I have to say that I think it's a completely fair price based on what you get. I would certainly consider doing it again even though it's not really my kind of event any more.

Thank you Mark for all the hard work and $$ that you put into TI. We (the racers) appreciate it.

Guitar Ted said...

@Johann Rissik: Thanks for the comment. I agree with much of your sentiments.

@Matt Maxwell: Thank you- once again- Matt. I appreciate the feelings and thoughts concerning T.I.

While I am in agreement that you "get what you pay for", there probably are some that may argue that DK hasn't fundamentally changed from their standpoint in the last three years, but the entry fee has. Things are more expensive these days, but at some point, I suppose, there is a line that gets crossed with regard to price where the costs outweigh the benefit of riding in DK for some.

I think it is harder to see the value when it is harder for the riders to see just where those dollars are going.

As in much of life, this is a communication, (or lack of), issue. At least in my opinion, it is that.