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California Event Owners Showcase Safety for Lawmakers

25 Feb, 2021

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Demonstrating Best Practices, Endurance Coalition Makes Strong Case for Return of Live Sports in State

Let's hear it for proactive event owners.

Plenty of ink has been devoted to the plight of event owners in California who have had to make the gut-wrenching choice between going bust or moving events out of state in order to put them on. The state that routinely hosts 8,000 events annually.

Behind the scenes, however, is a group of event owners that has been working to restore sports business to the state. This month, that group made a major step toward achieving that goal, hosting a test event for state officials.

The California Coalition of Endurance Events, cofounded by a group of event owners and industry vendors, held a successful demonstration for government officials and media to show the ways in which events like runs, triathlons, walks and bike rides can resume in a safe and responsible fashion.

“We invited county and city officials and the media to come and see for themselves that we can return to endurance sports safely, just like IRONMAN has been able to do around the country when allowed,” Mike Bone, President/CEO of Spectrum Sports, one of the coalition’s members, told Running USA.

The event was presented in Oceanside, which offers multiple event venues, and which has been a strong host of tournaments, festivals, races and triathlons. 

The Coalition set up a mock event venue, showing contactless registration and packet pickup process, temperature checks, contactless water stations with reusable cups, and digital post-event results delivery – all with enforced social distance and no mass gatherings.

Bone said that the Coalition has the goal of educating decision-makers about the professionalism, lead times and positive economic impacts of the endurance industry, so that they can better understand the impact of shutting events down for prolonged periods.

“When you explain to them that we are a professional industry, and we have six to nine month lead times, they start to understand. We’re not a restaurant that can just reopen in 72 hours,” said Bone.

San Diego County officials and mayors and councilmembers from cities attended the event.

“We really need to educate, and as an industry we’ve done a poor of job of educating people about our industry because we’ve never had to before,” Bone noted. The Coalition has also developed resources that showcase the economic power of the endurance space. Participant events generate over $70 million for charities in the state annually and over 100,000 Californians are employed by endurance companies. It’s estimated that the state hosts 8,000 events with over 2,500,000 participants each year.

In late January, the Coalition announced the results of a recent member survey of industry leaders across the state on the economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions on for-profit and non-profit runs, walks, triathlons and bike rides alone.

According to the Coalition, the survey results “underscore the economic importance and financial consequences of the endurance sports industry’s shutdown for California, as the industry generates in excess of $1,000,000,000 a year in tourism and economic activity and over $70MM in charitable contributions. The majority of this economic impact has completely disappeared, along with over 100,000 employment roles, due to COVID-19 mandates.”

And, say the Coalition’s members, lawmakers are paying far too much attention to the minutiae of the situation, worrying about indoor sports, rather than taking the broader view and seeing how safe outdoor events can be. Events are more than economic impact and more than opportunities to get exercise; they are, in fact, essential aspects of a community in their own right.

“After nearly 40 years producing community running events, we have seen how they have become about more than just recreation or fitness; they are important civic amenities, through economic stimulus and charitable fundraising, that are cornerstones of our community,” said Executive Director of the Sacramento Running Association Scott Abbott. “Much focus over the past nine months has been on how to mitigate COVID-19 risks for sectors of our economy that traditionally operate indoors. Yet there are important sectors, like endurance sports, that have always operated outdoors and can continue to safely do so with very simple adjustments. These are easy 'wins' right now for our lawmakers and health officials in California, and we look forward to working with them to bring back these important 'forces for good' in our communities.”

The Coalition produced a video on its efforts and intends to use that to illustrate how events can resume safely in cities across the state. The Coalition also hopes to hold a similar demonstration soon in Northern California.

There are positive signs that California is moving past the pandemic; the state has released its guidance regarding safe reopening of theme parks

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