Opinion: Sticker shock: Why are entry fees going up?

“$50 for a crit? $60 for a road race! What’s going on?”

The new race season has higher costs, and maybe you’re suffering from sticker shock.

Joey head shot

Joey Iuliano

As a broke graduate student, I can relate. Entry fees have doubled since I started racing in 2006.

There are a lot of costs going on at a race behind the scenes such as USA Cycling permits, county, state and city permits, plus more visible aspects such as barricades, police, registration and officials. And costs have been rising each year.

Transparency is important to me and I want to show want goes into an event. The Santa Catalina Omnium costs University of Arizona Cycling nearly $20,855 to produce. What goes into this?

Insurance costs how much?

The permit fee from USA Cycling is based on how much prize money the event offers. At the low end it’s $50 per day plus $10 per named agency on the permit. This gives us the basic event insurance of $1 million per occurrence, $3 million total.

However, many agencies such as the Arizona Department of Transportation and some county departments of transportation require additional insurance. USA Cycling only offers the option of $4 million additional insurance. This cost $550 in previous years; however, the price will be based on participation numbers in the future.

  • $100 on the base permit
  • $550 on the additional $4 million
  • $70 for additional insured parties
  • $10 for the county event permit

A safe race

It is my job to provide a safe venue and to mitigate the chances of you getting hurt at our event. These costs vary from event to event.

  • Traffic control: $4,100
  • Sheriff’s deputies: $2,500
  • Highway Patrol: $2,500
  • Ambulance on call: Free. Thankfully this is donated to us, otherwise it’s around $3,000.

Some races can get the city or country cover these fees as a way to increase tourism. Other places are less inclined to do so.

Event experience

No one wants to wait 30 minutes for their number or results.

  • Online registration (processing fees, numbers, etc.): $2,100
  • Officials: $1,500
  • Porta Johns: $800
  • Chip timing is usually around $1,500 to $2,000 if offered.

Insurance surcharge

USA Cycling charges $3.75 per unique rider per day: 350 riders x 2 x $3.75= $2,625

Prizes and awards

  • Cash prizes and primes: $4,000
  • Product: donated
  • We offer an admittedly small prize purse.

How do you cover everything? Sponsorship or entry fee?

Sponsorship is easier said than done because of how many events in Tucson and Phoenix are competing for scarce sponsorship dollars. Races held in remote areas have issues because of the lack of exposure. We’re not running the Tour de France with millions of TV viewers, so the amount of exposure our events gives is relatively small. For UA, we usually see about $1,000 in sponsorship and a lot of donated product.

Entry fees have to cover the rest. Entry fees are determined on the costs associated for each day and the estimated number of riders from prior years. Most of the costs associated with an event are fixed, only the $3.75 insurance surcharge and the online registration surcharge are variable.

At 350 riders, this puts our cost per rider at $49 for the road race and $39 for the crit.

Why “late registration” fees?

The number of portable toilets, volunteers, race packets, etc. are based on who signs up. We can provide a better event experience when we have an accurate headcount. The goal isn’t to punish riders or price gouge. It’s also a way to ensure we break even if we’re not near the predicted turnout.

At the end of the day our goal is to provide a safe, fun and memorable experience. We pour hundreds of hours of effort into meetings, e-mails and site visits out of love for the sport.

If we break even, we’re happy. If we turn a profit for our team, we’re ecstatic. We’re in this for the love of the sport – not to get rich.

And remember, $40 for a crit is a lot better than $200+ for a triathlon.

Joey Iuliano is the president of the Arizona Bicycle Racing Association and UA Cycling Team. He is a Cat 2 road racer who dabbles in cyclocross. Reach him at jiuliano88@gmail.com.

Main photo by Ben Mangilit