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Unread 01-11-2002, 07:20 PM
K2unit K2unit is offline
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Disney Extortion!

I have been an engineer for a US F.I.R.S.T. team for the past five years. The whole reason that I got involved and put hundreds of hours into the program was because I believe that F.I.R.S.T. does have a positive effect on kids. Most volunteers give up their own time away from family, friends and work as well as their own personal and financial resources so that the kids can receive the opportunities that F.I.R.S.T. has to offer. My company has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the F.I.R.S.T. program. I am appalled at the willingness of F.I.R.S.T. to be a part of the extortion that Disney is putting on the teams this year. This is the first year Disney mandates to the teams that if they do not stay at a Disney hotel they have to pay Disney $75.00 per person.

From the FIRST web page (see choice 2):

All teams attending the 2002 FIRST Championship event are required to purchase one of the following two Walt Disney World package options:
1) One option is the traditional hotel room package selections, which includes room nights, park tickets, meal coupons, transportation, a commemorative gift and admission into the Saturday night Team Wrap Party.
2) The other option is to not purchase a hotel package from the offerings below and to instead pay a Walt Disney World Event Fee of $75.00 per team member. This fee includes access to bus transportation from resorts that are package choices, as well as admission into the Team Wrap Party on Saturday night that includes food and beverage, entertainment, and select Epcot attractions.

Yes, folks it is extortion! Our team generally has about 100 team members every year. 70 students and the rest are engineers and college mentors. The cost of staying in a Disney resort was always out of our reach and we had to decide if we would rather have more kids involved and stay at a regular hotel and go to Disney for one day (which we always do – in fact we have already purchased the tickets for this year for each person to have a 1 day pass) or spend incredible amounts of money to stay on Disney property and have the park hopper passes (which do not get used very much due to the fact that we require our kids to attend all our matches) and allow fewer kids to experience the thrill of nationals. We always chose the former because we felt that F.I.R.S.T. was about inspiring these kids and not about days at Disney. We have in the past stayed at a good hotel with no complaints from anyone. This year according to the rules set forth by Disney with F.I.R.S.T.’s full approval we will be required to send Disney a check for $7,500.00 NOT to stay in one of their hotels.

One of the parents suggested that we tell Disney that we only have 10 team members. We have been trying to teach our kids integrity and honesty and “Gracious Professionalism”. We cannot and will not lie to get out of this kind of extortion. So which kids do we tell “you can’t go because we did not budget $7,500.00 to be paid to Disney NOT to stay in their hotel.”

Our team has produced many, many engineering students over the years, several of which I’ve hired and much of the reason was their involvement in FIRST. Disney has been VERY supportive of FIRST in the past, but requiring teams to pay Disney NOT to stay in one of their hotels is crossing the line of common sense! The difference in staying at Disney and Best Western (at $59/night) is almost $28,000.00. What were they thinking??!!!!!!!!

As an engineer I’m having a hard time with this ransom like treatment of the kids by Disney with FIRST’s support. My company always believed that Disney was a sponsor of FIRST and the kids, not the other way around!

Comments?

Korey Kline
Engineer -Ramtech 59
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Unread 01-11-2002, 09:17 PM
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Re: Disney Extortion!

Quote:
Originally posted by K2unit
This is the first year Disney mandates to the teams that if they do not stay at a Disney hotel they have to pay Disney $75.00 per person.

This year according to the rules set forth by Disney with F.I.R.S.T.’s full approval we will be required to send Disney a check for $7,500.00 NOT to stay in one of their hotels.

Disney has been VERY supportive of FIRST in the past, but requiring teams to pay Disney NOT to stay in one of their hotels is crossing the line of common sense! The difference in staying at Disney and Best Western (at $59/night) is almost $28,000.00. What were they thinking??!!!!!!!!
This is a topic that has been brought up repeatedly here in the past, so I'm only going to touch on it...You say that the $75 per person event fee is "extortion." Out of curiousity, what would you call it if FIRST eliminated this event fee, but you then had to explain to team B that they had to pay $100 extra per person in their Disney package over what you were paying in your non-Disney package, to cover your team's use of the event site, admittance to the team party, etc? This is what they are preventing with this event fee. The FIRST/Disney packages cost more than a normal Disney package because they help to cover the cost of the event "village," team party, non-package team use of busses provided to Good Neighbor hotels included in the Disney package, etc. I agree with FIRST's statement in making this change in costs, saying that some teams should not subsizide portions of the costs of the Championship event for other teams.
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Unread 01-11-2002, 10:10 PM
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The $75 is a bargain

If a team is not staying at the Disney hotels and not buying park passes, the $75 per person is a bargain. How much does it cost to build the stadiums, pit tents, etc? How much does it cost to run the busses that all teams use? How much does it cost to put on the show at the closing ceremony and do the 'wrap party'? I don't know the answer, but it is plenty. This cost of the competition site is subsidized by the hotel/park pass/meal ticket packages, and it's only fair that teams who don't buy the packages should pay their share of the cost.

From our experience, the 'cheap' Disney hotels, All Star Sports/Music/Movies are about the same price as non-Disney hotels, and they have good facilities for the students (and adults) to keep occupied in the evenings.

I guess another option to help pay for the cost of the competition site, etc. would be to raise the entry fee for Nationals. Then the package cost could be lower, and the $75/person for teams not using the package could be eliminated. The trouble with such an arrangement is that small teams would pay more of the cost per person than large teams. To me, what they are doing makes sense unless FIRST and/or Disney are making a windfall of money on the competition, which I doubt is the case. Maybe only FIRST and Disney know for sure about that.
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Unread 01-11-2002, 11:07 PM
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We are one of the ODD, unlucky teams to NOT be attending Nationals this year. I agree with the extorsion argument. Last year, our team did not attend the party inside Disney. It is crowded and too late at night to really enjoy food. You are forced to buy parkhopper passes for 3 or 4 days. We do not use them, but are paying for them with the Disney package. So Disney wants the "Glory" of being the sponsor, but does not want to pay for the event.....that is not reasonable to me.
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Unread 01-12-2002, 12:18 AM
nick reynolds nick reynolds is offline
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Did I miss some thing..... Dont you have to pay to go to the Nationals??? Isnt there a $4000 registration fee for the Nationals. now there were 350 teams last year so thats $1.4000.000.
I personaly paid for my family to go to Disney and the stay at the Disney All Star Sports including Hotel room was $1760.00 each. The cost of drinks and food that we had to buy on site because we were so far from any stores is nothing short of a "stick up". The food was the same every night and wasnt that great especialy for the price. My wife was made very sick at one of the restraunts when the chef put Horseradish ( Not on menue) on her plate and the waitress said it was coleslaw, Then while she was in the bathroom being sick they threw out her food. $31.00 worth.
Our team had about 38 people and the cost as said before is about $1760 this includes the air fare. the air fare is about $400.00 so multiply 38 x 1360 = thats over $50,000. now multiply that by all the teams, x350. WOW and we are a small team.
Doesnt F.I.R.S.T. get sponsors to help defer the cost of the nationals, and wouldnt this lower the overall cost. Yep Disney is really hard up and needs that offset $75.00
There should be some compassion for the teams that are struggling $$$. A few years ago there was a team that was so hard up that the couldnt afford to ship their robot home so they took it apart and put it in all their luggage, like to see that happen today. Not every team has unlimited funds and has great sponsors, shouldnt they be rewarded for getting to Florida and not punished.
And lastly, what about the teams that are from Orlando or close enough to commute do they have to pay the $75.00 because they dont stay at the Disney Hotels???.
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Unread 01-12-2002, 12:39 AM
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$4000 per team plus the $75 per person is not out of line when compared to the cost of doing other things in first. Like Nate said, this arguement has been brought up many times before, and I always can't help but think that even if Disney payed for the whole thing, someone would manage to not be happy with the setup. IMHO, Disney made the best decision out of a lose/lose situation. Either way teams would be upset but to me the way that they are doing it is actually the most fair.

~Tom Fairchild~, who thinks that some people don't give Disney enough credit for what they do to help FIRST.

P.S. No, Disney does not make a profit off of FIRST being there.
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Unread 01-12-2002, 12:58 AM
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Shouldn't the $75 per person goto FIRST instead of to Disney? That is what sponsorship is all about isn't it?

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Unread 01-12-2002, 08:01 AM
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Are there any published financial statements indicating what it costs FIRST and Disney to prepare for and run the competitions? Such information might help us determine who is "right" in this discussion.
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Unread 01-12-2002, 06:28 PM
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Believe it or not FIRST folks are not particularly good Disney customers.

From OUR point of view we pay for passes that we don't use, but from Disney's point of view, we are spend thrifts that don't share the wealth that other typical Disney customers spread around so freely.

Yes, Disney is making money on us. But in total, it is not as much as you might think. Remember, if we were not taking up space, they would likely have their hotels full of folks that spend about $400 per day per family in their parks -- I spend NOTHING in the parks.

In the end, I think that Disney is a huge net supporter of FIRST. The money they make off of us offsets some of their costs, but I don't suppose it comes anywhere close to them breaking even.

In the long run, I am sure that Disney will not be the home of the Championship Event. But for now, we get more than we give. Even with a surcharge on off-site stays.

Joe J.
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Unread 01-13-2002, 04:25 AM
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I have to agree with Joe.. The first thing you learn in economics is that things cost more than just what you see.. How many of us act like tourists when we're in Disney?? How many of us spend the money on souveniers and the like that we would if we went down only once every 5 years or so..

There is documentation of what Disney donates to FIRST, the event fee is charged to anyone who stays at a non-Disney hotel and attends an event in Disney, and if you really think about it, the 75.00 is only a fraction of what they could be making if, as Joe said, a tourist came and spent a day..

In the two years I've gone to Disney with FIRST, I know for a fact that I have spent less than what I did when I went there on vacation with family.. Disney does alot, but they won't be our home forever.. Enjoy it while it lasts..
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Unread 01-13-2002, 10:30 AM
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Do you know something I don't know

Joe, Rob

Do you guys know something that most of us don't know about future plans for the FIRST competition, or are you just stating a general "nothing is forever."

TIA
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Unread 02-26-2002, 09:23 PM
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What is the link at FIRST where it says all of this?
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Unread 02-26-2002, 10:16 PM
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Wow... heated debate here.

Well, for veteren teams, I think it is ok but for rookie teams, I think it is bad news. Many rookie teams have barely the budget to build a robot and compete it in the regionals. Asking them for an extra $75 per person is a little hefty I think.

For example, our team has been helping a rookie team this year and they can only make it into the regionals because they don't have the money. Many teams pick a non-Disney package because it is cheaper. If you have to pay $75 extra per person, it defeats the purpose.

Anyways, I don't think it is a great idea. Hopefully, next year, FIRST will have enough sponsors to cover this cost.
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Unread 02-26-2002, 10:25 PM
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I would have to say also that this 75.00 fee is a huge load of crap why do you pay a 4,000 dollar entry fee for nationals if you are going to be hit up with this kind of stuff. Rember this year you have to be in a reagional before you go to nationals so you already paid once. OH yea and since i worked for disney there is a band on the f*** word FREE. So be assured that anything that disney does they are never giveing anything away. Ex: i am willing to bet you that the concessions at the event alone more that pays for the event. Come on 5.00 for a hot dog that is like 400% profit and i am sure they would love to to waste you meal ticket on that crap. Also you are not going to use disney transportation because you not staying in a dinsey hotel and if they are using the transportation system it is because they are going to buy something, because again disney does nothing for FREE. If you have no ticket to parks or hotel there is no reason for using the busses.
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Unread 02-26-2002, 10:30 PM
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Just looking in my trusty crystal ball...

I have no inside knowledge of anything that tells me that FIRST and Disney will part ways some day.

I am really just thinking and hoping outloud...

Right now, Disney is a net positive for FIRST, in terms of support and in terms of credibility -- having the Nationals... ...er ah... Championship Event at Disney gives FIRST a certain amount of "they must be somebody if they are associated with Disney" appeal.

In the long run, FIRST will not need this PR boost from Disney. In the long run, if FIRST is as successful as I am hoping FIRST will be, cities will bid to host the FIRST Championship the same way that cities now bid to host the Superbowl, the All-star game, and the NCAA tourney. In such a bidding process, I don't suppose that Disney will find it worth the money to put together a winning bid -- Cities like Detroit, NYC, New Orleans, Chicago, Baltimore, Miami, Houston, etc. will have much more at stake if they win the bid than Disney could ever hope to make on the sorry business we bring to the Magic Kingdom*.

That is the reason why I think that it is very likely that the days of Championships being held at Disney are numbered.

Joe J.

*I really mean that by the way, we are terrible customers for Disney -- the fact that we don't go into the park is not a good thing from their perspective -- not going into the park means we are not spending our MONEY in the park -- I am not saying that Disney does not make money on our visit but that they don't make what a typical Disney customer would make them AND they have to build us a $3M complex in order to get us to come at all -- Believe me, we are by no means the goose that lays golden eggs at least from Disney's perspective.
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