Monday, February 1, 2010

Politically Active Triathletes: Tempe's Prop 400

I got an email from Red Rock Co. a few days ago, and in the midst of the usual "Sign up for this race now!" reminders, something caught my eye: A request that Tempe, AZ residents vote yes on Tempe's Prop. 400.

Proposition 400 proposes to raise Tempe's hospitality tax, charged on hotel rooms only, from 3% to 5%.

So what does that have to do with triathlon? I remembered talking to Xterra last year about their moving Xterra nationals from Incline Village, NV to Ogden, UT. One of the main reasons for the move? A lack of the usual support from Nevada's financially-sucking tourism board.

But what does that mean? Does a tourism board pay race production companies to put a race on in their town? Between the SOMA Half, IMAZ, and the gazillion other races put on in and around Tempe Town Lake, Tempe is reaping financial rewards from being triathlete friendly.
(Tempe Town Lake)

In an email, Red Rock Co.'s Event Director, Mike Melley, helped me understand the delicate relationship between event producers and city tourism boards. Or, in this specific case, between Tempe-based Red Rock Co. and the Tempe Convention and Visitor's Bureau. (CVB)

Erin: Does the city's tourism board help produce sporting events?
Melley: The tourism board does not help produce events. The City/CVB has a vested interest in events that bring in tourism, patrons, and out of state visitors as this increases revenue, sales and hotel stays. Take an event like PF Changs Rock n Roll Marathon (AZ) they bring in 35,000 athletes and impact the revenue of the surrounding communities positively. As an event promoter this may enable them to leverage lower costs to shut down roads, pay police and other expenses necessary to produce an event of that magnitude.

Erin: How much of an event's budget depends on money received from the city's tourism board?
Melley: This is dependent on the city, their budget and the impact of the event. I can only speak to those events for which we are fortunate enough to get some support from the City/CVB. No event should ever DEPEND on the city to succeed. We don’t depend on it, but it certainly allows us to help improve the quality of the event for the athlete while ensuring we keep the course safe and fun.

Erin: How would the passage (or not) of Prop 400 directly affect Red Rock Co.?
Melley: Prop 400 stands the chance of eliminating CVB/City sponsorship of the event (Soma in particular) and would force us to re-evaluate our costs across the board and the event as a whole. Prop 400 is not just about events, actually it is likely a very small part of the prop that is an effort by the city to help increase revenue (to be in line with the other surrounding cities) in a time of a severe budget crisis.

So if you're living in Tempe, go vote March 9th to help keep events like SOMA healthy and rockin'. I have a special place in my heart for it; it was my 2nd half ever.

Sorry, SOMA, Big Kahuna will always be my first.


  1. I've always wondered about those hotel taxes. Santa Clara is considering one now as a way to help fund the proposed 49ers stadium. I wonder if it will have consequences for triathletes as well?

  2. Definitely! It seems like its in the best interest of amateur sporting events (like marathons/tris) to pursue come city funding. It also seems like raising that tax is an easy measure to get on the ballot since most city residents won't be affected...unless they're into secret meetings at shady hotels not far from home...

  3. The "hotel tax" in Santa Clara is a subsidy for the construction of the stadium - nothing more. It isn't going to help triathletes or promote triathlons in any way.

    Even after construction: Triathlons will be the last thing on the 49ers' minds.

    An NFL stadium is only there for the benefit of an NFL team - it does not benefit its community - and contrary to what the "boosters" are claiming, it most certainly does not promote alternate athletic activities.

    One look at Indy, Cincy, New Orleans will tell the true story.

    Bill Bailey, Treasurer,
    Santa Clara Plays