January 23, 2014

Thursday Rant - Pay to Play

This post started as one thing..and then pivoted to something completely related....

Wednesday I was up on Hwy 9 at Hwy 35 and headed south. I passed Castle Rock State Park - a fine little hike that is easy access from around the bay area. Sure enough there were about a dozen cars parked on the side of the highway, undoubtedly enjoying the nearby seclusion on offer. My first thought upon seeing the cars wasn't "how nice, they are out in nature..." - Nope...my first thought

What a bunch of cheap asses!

You see they all parked outside the parking area to avoid paying the hefty $2-10/day use fee for park users. This is the way it is, the way it's seemingly always been. Park outside and walk in, save the $5 for your post-hike coffee. I've done it myself. Except now I'm old and curmudgeonly so I see things from a different perspective, which is much more DO YOUR PART!

I know the argument: "these are our lands and we already pay taxes" except that doesn't really get to the crux of it. California is, finally, starting to dig itself out of its latest financial disaster - for now. Of course parks took a hit and were forced to decrease services, close parks, limit hours, etc...all of which could be mitigated if the free-loaders would pay for their use. How about some perspective:

From the California State Parks website we learn that CSP is responsible for 280 parks encompassing some 1.5 Million acres, employs about 1800 people full time, and had an operating budget in 2011-12 of just over $200M, of which just over 52% came from revenue generation. Here is a look at District revenue targets:

So, now to the simple math part. The CSP produces a statistical report each year that breaks down all kinds of stuff including paid and free day use. Since I wandered by Castle Rock State Park yesterday, let's look at their use trends/estimates from 2011-12 (most current year available). They had 15,688 paid users generating a total of $72,892 in fees, but they had over 119,000 FREE day users! At a conservative $5/day use fee, that's almost $600,000 in additional revenue that was not realized by the Cal State Parks system for just this park! A quick look across the system and we can conservatively estimate that paid use is a mere fraction of FREE use (Henry Cowell had ~95,000 paid visitors, but over 600,000 FREE!).

I understand that not everyone can pay and that these are public lands that have been set aside for our use and enjoyment, but if each of the free users would commit to paying even 50% of the time they use the park it would provide the kind of financial stability that seems so ethereal in todays World. We have the largest state park system in the country, but it needs the committment and resources of those who USE it in order to remain the best state park system in the country....so, come on..Pay to Play!

Then something weird happened...

I read the CX Magazine article about our World Championships Team members having to foot their own bill, often at last minute prices, to attend next weeks World Championships, and the idea of "Pay to Play" took on a whole new meaning. There are a couple of points I'd like to make about this shameful exercise.

1. As a coach I spend $100/year on my coaching license. As a club director I spend $150/year on my club dues, and as a racer I spent $150 for an International License this year. This doesn't include the cost of permits for my clinics (if I want access to the insurance, I have to permit the clinic), attendance fees for those who come to the clinics, and gawd forbid any late fees associated. I feel like I truly pay to play! To that end I should have a voice and I think USAC needs to re-evaluate their priorities and spending. Cyclocross, while not an Olympic sport (so the argument goes), has seen the largest surge in participation (read: racing licenses), event permits (read:  fees for USAC), and coverage (read: everywhere!)...yet those who are the forefront of the wave - our elite riders - receive nary a hint of appreciation for the prestige they are adding to our National programs.

2. As a participant I think this type of "Pay to Play" approach is an embarrassment. Love of the sport carries most of us through the trials and tribulations of a seasons racing be it road, mountain or cross...surely those who rise to the top should have some sort of cherry-on-top for the hard work and sacrifice they have endured. There is a tremendous swell of 'crowd sourced' support for those racers who aspire to take on the Worlds best, and this is a good thing, but where is the buy in from our National Governing Body to provide that stable funding stream that allows those resources to be re-directed at sending the local junior phenom to a regional camp, or even to a skills clinic to help them reach the next level? To that end I'd like to see USAC set aside a reasonable budget for ANY National Champions and those eligible to compete in the World Championships, to have their expenses covered. This years US team is roughly 20 riders. If we take at face value the "program cost" for on-site support at $800 per athlete and add a conservative $2000 for travel, that is $56,000 to support the 20 best CX racers in the country at Worlds. That's only 746 licenses ($75/ea) out of a published 70,000+ members, attending over 3,000 events, as part of over 2,600 clubs -  or put a different way, it's only...140 guys like me!

In 2012 USAC had over $14M in revenues, support of the CX Worlds Team would be 0.004% of that total..how does that add up?

Ok....rant done for this week...

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