Summer event fun on limited funds
April 17, 2009
After a tough winter of economic woes, it stands to reason that those same troubles could seep their way into Park City’s summer sporting events. But it seems things are staying fairly intact.
It is no secret that the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) will not be bringing its national mountain bike race to Deer Valley this summer, but early indications are that the other big events will be moving forward as usual.
Even though the NORBA decision sounds a like a direct result of a sagging economy, it was actually made before the economy really went south. According to Deer Valley general manager Bob Wheaton, the resort decided last summer that it could no longer hold the high-level mountain bike race. Although it wasn’t driven by the economy in general, it was still a financially-based decision.
The event, which was a joint effort between Deer Valley, the state of Utah, the Park City Chamber Bureau and US Cycling, was making less and less financial sense, Wheaton said.
The event had been seeing a decline in athletes, sponsors and donations from the state. Before the NORBA competition got the ax, Deer Valley looked at returns from sales tax, lodging, restaurants and other factors and did not see the big numbers that would have been needed to save the race.
"There’s a point where there’s really not a return," Wheaton said. "This event was based on a return to the town as a whole.
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"It was sad to pull the plug on it," he said. "I really liked it, but it was time."
Deer Valley will still hold the much smaller, regional Pedalfest mountain bike race and a number of smaller sporting events.
Tour de Park City, a road-bike race run by Coalville native Riley Siddoway, has definitely been feeling the crunch of a tough economy this year. The event, which is set for Aug.1, has seen a decline of almost 50 percent in sponsorships. Even the sponsors that came back from last year could only offer about half of what they did before. On top of that, cash donations have been "nearly extinct," Siddoway said.
This has meant some creative organizing on his part. He wants to ensure that they don’t lose any money from the actual running of the race. That has meant cutting out some of the extras like providing lunch and water bottles, and instead focusing funds on the most crucial parts of the race, like aid stations and race packs.
Right now, registration is up from last year. Like the Park City Marathon, the tour is very reasonably priced, so Siddoway wasn’t surprised to see that people aren’t cutting it out of their budget. The event offers a 175-mile race, a 175-mile tour, a century ride and a half-century. An avid racer himself, Siddoway thinks that, for a lot of people, racing is both a release and a mindset that brings them happiness and feeds their competitive spirit.
"There are things you just don’t give up, or are not the things you give up first," he said.
He also has to deal with a one-dollar per-person increase in insurance by US Cycling for the sanctioned event. Siddoway was frustrated to see one more thing this year that might deter people from participating.
"It seems really silly," he said. "It could be the straw that breaks the backs of smaller events."
For more information the event, visit http://www.tourdeparkcity.com
Things are still a go for the Triple Crown Girls’ Fastpitch Softball World Series July 7-25. According to event director Bill Walters, the numbers are down, but the organization is still going strong. Triple Crown did raise the entry fees about 10 percent, but nothing too significant.
"We’ll still be there," Walters said.
He has seen a 15-percent decrease in the number of teams that have signed up and figures that there won’t be many more signing up now. The biggest decrease has been among the younger teams and teams from Arizona and Colorado. Colorado registrations are down about 50 percent and, thus far, he has seen very few teams from Arizona.
"People just don’t have the money," he said. "We still have a lot of teams that are undecided. Typically, if they haven’t made a decision by this date, we won’t see them."
The California market has remained steady. And with lower transportation and lodging costs, the Utah market is shining the brightest.
Walters said the company hasn’t seen many budget cuts because it has been successful with all of its tournaments across the board.
"Everything’s still the same. Just a few fewer teams," he said.
The smaller-scale Ski Town Shootout youth lacrosse tournament June 18-20 is having a similar result. Although it’s still too early to predict team numbers, tournament director Michael O’Malley is hoping for the best.
"We are cautiously optimistic that it will be flat to last year," he said.
"Flat" means 50 teams, but the tournament board wouldn’t be surprised if it were just 40. O’Malley has already heard from one Texas team that said it was simply too expensive to travel to the event this year. Like Walters, O’Malley expects that the teams with less travel and lodging costs are more likely to attend, although he has received a lot of response from California.
To plan for a "down" year, O’Malley and his staff have been cautious with their budgeting. The Ski Town Shootout is one of the most affordably-priced lacrosse tournaments in the area, so that may help. Luckily, the tournament’s largest expense is officiating, so if fewer teams sign up, they won’t have to spend as much. O’Malley’s biggest concern is that a smaller tournament will mean a smaller return to the programs that help to put the event on. Volunteers from local high schools, including Park City High School, help run the tournament and receive the bulk of the money raised through entry fees and sales. Fewer teams will mean less money for them.
"The size of the pie may be smaller," O’Malley lamented.
The Park City Marathon seems to have weathered the economy unscathed.
"Our numbers are up," reported marathon director Jolie McTavish.
In fact, McTavish is hoping for a sellout. Registrations are up 15 percent over this time last year for the marathon that will be run Aug. 22.
McTavish attributes the increase to a number of factors. The race is cheaper than its big-city counterparts at $65 — the same price as last year — rather than $85 or more. McTavish is also always trying to be ecofriendly and green and cut costs where ever she can.
"It’s a nice dovetailing to be green and minimize our costs," she said.
For instance, McTavish purchased lanyards for the medals from a recycled- materials company, which is green and cheaper, rather than using ribbons.
She has also put all of the race advertising online, which again is cheaper and greener. To defray other costs, McTavish has applied for both the special-events tax grant from the Park City Chamber Bureau and the restaurant-tax-fund grant from Summit County. She has received grants in other years, but does worry that, in this economy, that money may not be available this year.
For more information on the Park City Marathon, visit http://www.pcmarathon.com.
Mountain Trails Foundation executive director Carol Potter doesn’t foresee any changes with any of the foundation’s summer events. Most of the events are very small and budget-friendly and the bigger Mid Mountain Marathon has a limit of 250 runners, so she expects it to still fill up. Mountain Trails Foundation also offers memberships that have been slow to sell thus far, but Potter points out that, until the weather changes, those numbers will likely be down.
Potter said that people’s love of trails and the outdoors should keep them coming out for events as well as using the outdoor areas on a regular basis. And even if this year proves to be slower than others, Mountain Trails still receives significant funds from Utah State Parks and Park City Municipal Corp.
"If it stays the same, it will still be successful," she said.