Getting Started in PRO Rally - The Real Cost, II (event expenses)

Written by Ken Beard, the 1999 Safety Steward of the Northeast Division of the SCCA, sometime around 1999.

This series on "The Cost of PRO Rally" started with a couple postings to the Rally Mail List. The first questioned how cheaply a rally car could be built - and that was the genesis for my response -Part I. The second commented on the "high" entry fees for events. That caused me to generate this response - Part II.

In this, Part II, I have included the original email so you'll have an idea of how much "cost" we are talking about.

The original email - Why do stage rallies cost so much to enter and where does that money go? This latest edition of STPR (1997) will cost us $475 and breaks down as follows: $450 for national, $125 for divisional and national, less $100 for first time national entry by driver. If you do the math on, say 50 national cars, at $450 a pop, the organizers are sitting on over $22K. Add the $95 that SCCA took for the national license everyone holds, and things start to add up.

As an aside I can tell you that the first stage event I ran, STPR in 1980, cost us $75.

All valid questions and here's the response:

First, the insurance for a National is $4600 per event. Divide that by the number of cars expected and you'll see that $75 you paid in 1980 may not even cover the insurance. The insurance for a Coefficient III is $71 per car with a minimum of $1070 and a maximum of $3600 per event. For lesser events, it's graduated down.

Then there's the per car sanction fee - somewhere around $15 per car.

Those numbers and stickers you get at registration are not free either. Figure $5-10 per car.

Road bond - with few exceptions, everyone posts a bond to cover possible damage and regrading for the roads. I've heard of cases where this is $10k or more. The organizers may or may not get some or all of that back. In some cases, the roads are RENTED for a fixed fee per mile, per car. For some of the smaller events on private land, the entire venue is rented.

The use of the fairgrounds outside Wellsboro for tech has some fee associated with that use. The use of the fairgrounds at Germania for service is not free either.

Do the organizers pay for their own lodging, meals and mileage? Some do, some don't. Some get their lodging as part of a package deal with the headquarters motel. Some don't. Some charge it to the event proceeds.

Does someone pay mileage for the organizers for the year it takes to set up an event? Perhaps the region does, perhaps not. In the case of STPR, there is a meeting in Wellsboro once a month, every month of the year with the local Chamber of Commerce and whoever in Wellsboro is helping with the event. The organizers all live in Rochester, NY. In addition, the stage roads are run several times a year to set up the stages and the route books. We're talking several thousand miles for a dedicated organizer for STPR. In organizing the Ski Sawmill Rally Right School I travel there at least three times a year plus the trip for the event. At 170 miles one way, that's 1300 or so miles a year. I'm never reimbursed because the event cannot afford it.

Speaking of route books; how much is the printing for those? How much is the printing for all of the documentation that is needed for all the competitors?

Who pays for the postage for all that paperwork? You wouldn't believe how much of that flys around the country both before and after an event - even for a small event. For a National, some 500 flyers and entry forms are mailed nationwide. After the event, everyone is mailed their copy of the official results.

Who pays for the EMTs and Ambulances to stand-by? That is not free. At a minimum, some sort of a donation is expected to the Ambulance company if it is volunteer. In many cases, they are not volunteers and they are hired for the duration of the event and paid for out of the event proceeds.

How about the sweeps? Many of those are 4x4 clubs - donations are nice there too and insure they will be more likely to be back next year.

For many events, rent-a-cops are hired for traffic control at spectator areas or to control traffic around a stage. When you go to Summer Maine, count the rent-a-cops for the stage in town. Note too that the ambulances you see there are hired for our exclusive use. It would be nice to use volunteers in all cases - but what happens if they get a 911 call to go somewhere else? Unless you have a backup, the rally stops.

How about communications? In most cases, the communications are provided by a local Ham club. A donation is probably in order here. In some cases, cell phones are rented for the duration of the event to provide communications where the Hams cannot.

The church hall that is used for registration at STPR is not free either. The event has that hall for two days. How about the venue for the Friday night and Saturday night parties? Not to mention the libations and food.

Who feeds those workers that stand out in the woods all night? In the case of Sawmill, we carry box lunches out to them while you are having your dinner break. Those are not free.

The banner tape you see on all the stages costs $20 a roll. The wrist-bands are a few bucks a hundred.

Even with all the expense, some of the regions actually make a modest profit. With that, they buy the clocks that are used at each end of a stage. They buy the signs that are used on the course and replace them when necessary. They buy the materials and the paint for the arrows. Then they may even have enough left over to modestly compensate some of the volunteers that spend their time and effort and mileage to put on an event. If it wasn't for all those volunteers, there wouldn't be any events. Any idea how many workers it takes to put on STPR? Somewhere on the order of 500-600 people total - with a large part of them standing out in the woods regardless of the weather.

Have I left anything out? Probably a bunch, but you get the idea.

Five Hundred for a quality National that safely gives you a whole weekend of entertainment and challenge? I'd say we're getting off cheap.