Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Entry Fees... where do they go?

So this is not my usual type of topic for this blog but having read recent posts on lists from people complaining about entry fees and having recently experienced a fiasco with parking fees... I feel I have something to say on this topic.

I look at entry fees for various trials around our area and in the midwest (when I travel to trials at other places). If I know who is putting on the trial I will ask them about their expenses because I'm always curious about that. I'm always "shopping" for places to have trials and for ways to keep the trial costs down so I don't have to pass it along to competitors. My goal for ACTS trials is to break-even. As a business and not a non-profit or not-for-profit club I have higher overhead than they do when putting on trials at some venues. While the facility rental fees we pay here in the Twin Cities are some of the highest in the country we still have some of the lowest entry fees in the country. Certainly some of the lowest entry fees for a large metropolitan area. How long that may last is hard to say because the rental fees and expenses are continuing to increase.

This past March trial we learned that the parking police at the U of M had recently stepped up their enforcement and I was really worried that they would ticket our competitors and cost everyone a $20-25 ticket. That would have been horrible. We had been avoiding paying for parking because no one had been checking. Well at the last minute I had to buy a "lot pass" for 50 cars at $6 per car per day from the U. I thought long and hard about how to handle this unexpected additional cost. I decided to pass it along to exhibitors at a discount of $5 per car. It turned out that on Saturday the parking enforcement counted cars and found 73 there and so they charged me for the additional 23 cars at $6 each - but better that than ticketing everyone. I did not quite collect enough money in parking fees to cover this cost. Smaller trials like the ASCA ones may get by with paying for fewer cars on a lot pass and they pay significantly less in rent than I do so they also may be able to "eat" the cost of the parking passes more than I can.

One thing I've learned is that the rental fees Agile Canines pays to Leatherdale and SoccerBlast are among the highest in the country. Agile Canines is a business, not a non-for-profit, so I have to pay more for weekend rental at Leatherdale than the ASCA or MAC do. This is a rule of the U of M to charge less for the clubs. Simons Arena and the Isanti barn are also higher in rent than other places around the country. These facilities do not provide equipment rental either. At Leatherdale I have to pay $500 a day compared to $300 that the clubs pay plus $6 per car for parking. For an average ACTS trial that is 75 cars (an additional $450 per day). SoccerBlast charges all groups the same - $1200 per day and parking is included. When I research other areas and the rent they pay it is often less than than $800 per day and often this fee will include equipment rental.

The other factor that goes into entry fees is the cost of ribbons. For CPE trials where we use 500 qualifying ribbons per trial that is a large additional expense.

When you look at your entry fee and where the money goes keep the following in mind:

Judges are paid $1.00 per run (some AKC judges are paid more than this) as long as the dog is listed in the catalog/running order regardless if they run or not.
Clubs pay on average $1.00 per run to the parent organization for recording fees (AKC and USDAA have higher rates and different fee scales)
Ribbons for double flats you can figure that the Q ribbon is around $.70 to $1.00 and the placements may be less. Rosettes run around $3.00 each.
Toys per dog are about $2.00 each.
For an ACTS Leatherdale trial that has 400 runs a day you can figure that $1.25 of your entry fee goes toward rent (not including parking)
Then there are the judge's expenses - airfare, hotel, meals and judging gift. This varies a great deal but very often airfare can be as high as $500 especially for judges living near smaller airports. Often judges can't fly out until Monday morning so there are three nights of a hotel stay. So you can figure that at least $1.00 per run goes toward judge's expenses.

Look at the break down of where an $11 entry goes:

$11 per run
- $1.00 judge fee
- $1.00 org recording fee
- $1.00 ribbon cost
- $.25 toy cost
- $1.25 rental fee (indoor venues or outdoor venues with porta-potty rentals)
- $1.00 judge expenses
- $1.00 for miscellaneous expenses such as sanctioning fees, trial secy' expenses for paper, ink, software updates, general office supplies for the trial, gas and truck rental.
- $.50 per run for worker lunch (when it is not a potluck - $.25 per run when it is a potluck)

Then when you consider that 25% of all entry fees for an ACTS trial come in the form of worker vouchers... that amounts to a further discount of $2.75 in cash per run.
- That leaves a $1.25 per run in cash to cover additional costs that may arise - like parking fees at Leatherdale, new title pins and other special awards, costs for equipment maintenance and purchase of new equipment. This is why I felt it was necessary to pass along the cost of parking at a discount to competitors otherwise I would have lost money on the trial.

So before you complain about entry fees increasing you need to look at how much it costs to put on a trial. There is not much money (and sometimes no money) being made at the ACTS trials so I really do it because I enjoy doing it and I feel I am supporting the various parent organizations by doing so.

For 2010 there have been rental fee increases announced by some of the places we use for trials as well as other expenses increasing. Do not be surprised if entry fees start to increase later this year and into 2010. You may also see groups cutting back on things in order to help cut costs.

Other expenses that many clubs incur - paying trial secretaries (can be thousands of dollars per trial), renting equipment and higher recording fees to their parent organization.

In addition with the changes and improvements made in equipment requirements for the different agility organizations it is expensive for agility groups to keep up with these when putting on trials. Many clubs in the area are updating their equipment and adding rubber granules to their contacts and looking at purchasing displaceable tires and other things.

Often clubs have to set their entry fees before they even know how much all of the expenses will be for a trial and they have to guestimate what to charge based on previous events.

Agile Canines


  1. Thanks so much for the breakdown. I've noticed too that entry fees are very low, and we are one of the few areas that still has vouchers.

    I am shocked though that you make little to no money on the trials. Wow! I guess I owe you a HUGE thank you for putting on our beloved NADAC trials then! :-)

    This blog is very informative!

  2. Thanks for the information. I look at costs more and more these days since money for us is tight. I was at the ASCA trial this weekend and I think that the U OF M should not be charging for parking when you are attending an event that the organization has rented the building, it should be cover in the rental cost.
    With this new economy, everyone is looking at costs, especially me.

  3. Jen, your post made me think. This is NOI a reflection on your comments alone, but the topic has been around lately.

    The U can certainly "include" parking in the rental, but the rent would go up.....since the U has 100% contract parking, I don't imagine that it would change just for us. If you attend a concert or other event at the U, your parking is not "included".
    And the U is in the same boat that you are--they are just as aware of costs--and that's why the enforcement of EXISTING parking regulations was something that was probably inevitable in the "new" economy. I now know more about this than I ever would have thought I could, and although I hope we can work out something, and so do they, I believe our free ride is not going to be repeated.
    We all make personal choices. I think the Leatherdale offers many things that are superior to other winter sites. Some of them come at a cost. When I look at the amount of dirt that everyone tracks into this, a new, clean building, I am frankly surprised that we aren't charged a cleaning fee! When I see the amount of trash left by people, or the dog poop in the other areas, I am chagrined at our manners. So let's try to keep the big picture in mind, whether it's Leatherdale, Soccer Blast, or another site.
    Off my soapbox and Jen, NOT directed at you in any way!