Finding a space outside of school

Hey, so our team just found out we don’t have a room in our school anymore because the school is hiring 6 more teachers and that fills all the schools vacant rooms(really the best reason for getting kicked out). So basically we were wondering if anyone had any tips for finding a space to host a team. We were thinking about going down the obvious routes of contacting our sponsors to see if any of them have an unused space. We are also planning to get in touch with local commercial real estate companies and see if they have any ideas. We we’re also going to contact local community colleges to see if any of them have a space. So I guess I’m asking if anyone has any other ideas?

Chamber of commerce and shopping malls / strip malls.

1678 Citrus Circuits uses a portable classroom and 2 20 foot shipping containers as our storage and shop space(which is wired with 3 phase off an extension to our classroom). The shipping containers can be bought in 40’ long for between 2.5-3.5k and if you can wrangle in a teacher as a mentor/coach you could meet in their room and use containers as extra space.

We have a local team that meets and builds in a grange hall.

I believe we rent the warehouse we use during competition season, I’m sure there would be some in your area.

Local colleges might have unused space.
20 shares a practice field at the RPI Technology Park with all the other teams in the area.

Sorry to hear you guys losing work space, Unfortunately we lost during middle of this past build season. Your current sponsors will be your best bet… try to convince them. Before going to them find out if school insurance extends to outside school as FIRST is considered as school activity or such (I may not be phrasing this right). First thing companies ask is liability insurance, school or school district’s insurance normally covers students if students are considered as participating in school activity. The next thing is building security, if you have a parent working for the sponsor it would be easy.

Yes we are still working to get a place…

Sorry to hijack this thread, but I’m looking for a space for my team too and I have some questions. Who should do the asking, the student or the teacher sponsor? What type of research do we need to do? Insurance? What should we tell the owner of the property?

As a team that is currently looking for a build space as well, I can answer some of your questions. As well ask for some answers of my own.

Who should do the asking?

The person who knows best about what a build space needs should be the one to do the asking. If it’s via email send bcc’s to everyone who you believe should be participating in the inquiry. Whether it’s a student or mentor, it doesn’t matter until the actual purchase, which a mentor or someone with that usually holds the money should be doing. Other then that, whoever handles the budget of the team should absolutely be in the conversations.

What type of research?

Your research depends on what you want. Pay attention to the size (sqft). If you plan to have a full field, machine shop and a working space then you’ll need a fairly large space comparatively to a half field and no machine shop. If you do have a machine shop planned for your build space, make sure the building is able to accommodate that with power plugs and proper ventilation. Of course, look at the price tag as well, depending on your resources, can you afford to obtain a more permanent build space or would renting be a better option? Finally, location is important, make sure that your teammates are able to get there easily as students.


Haven’t really gotten to this stage myself. Any help here would be greatly appreciated. XD

What should we tell the property owner?

If you have decided on a place, simply send an email or make a phone call asking any questions you may have and ask for a chance to look at the space. If renting is your jam, then inquire the property owner about the length of leases. If you aren’t able to work out a deal then just move on to the next space, no point in paying for a couple extra months if you’re not going to be there or use the space outside build and competition season.

Hope this answered some of your questions. As a fellow team also looking for a build space, I wish you luck in your search.

For the insurance aspect look into affiliating your team with 4-H. They blanket insurance policies that you can utilize if you are a 4-H affiliated club for a few dollars per member per year.

This. 4901 formed as a 4-H club instead of affiliating with a school, and it was a Good Life Decision. Look up your county’s extension office; they’re all (far as I know) run as an arm of a state college or university. You may have to send a few emails to find a contact, but I know our county agent was very excited to get a FIRST program started.

Most of the options I’d consider have been discussed. Definitely look at shopping centers and malls, especially that one in your town that’s been upstaged. (Every town has one of those.)

A team in our are actually negotiated the use of a residential house from a real estate company for the past coupler years. If you want I can put you in touch with them.

Also, our team has contemplated a situation in which we might be forced to find a location of our own and we had the idea of professionally approaching real estate companies and asking if they can donate or otherwise help us acquire a portion of buildings they own for our use. It is certainly a bizarre thought, but it may be worth trying.

We are looking at using a Farmers Market space owned by our agricultural extension service as a practice space next season. Farmers markets usually set vacant during the winter months of FRC season.

I know the XBOTS, FRC 488 was able to get use of a vacant warehouse in Rainier Valley for a couple of seasons…that is where they had a JPF?= Joint Practice Field. It was a building that was vacant for several years and being remodeled upstairs level. The FRC used the lower level. Real Estate is more filled up these days but perhaps there is some building sitting empty, on hold?
Also does XBOT still have their rented shop space near Safeco Field @ Dearborn= that big Work Space Rental thing?

We went through this in 2011. We lost school space just after Championship. We had to move out in 2 weeks.

Our team spent two years working out of donated warehouse space. To find this space, we worked with a local commercial space realtor. This realtor was able to connect us with companies with space up for sale or lease which was not moving.

First, we needed to find the right sort of property owner; one with a community focus. Secondly, we needed to have our own liability insurance (which means we needed to be a legal entity, by the by). Third, we needed to execute an agreement with the property owner to define responsibilities and the limits of liabilities. All critical business details. We didn’t need to pay rent, but generally, we had to cover utility costs of the property we used. Also, of course, they became key team sponsors.

Of course, a drawback of this lifestyle was the need to move often; typically about once a year. In 2012, we had to move all of our stuff between Christmas and New Years. It made for a challenging build season!

So, there can be life without school space. It’s not an easy life and it has its challenges. Also benefits (the “borrowed” warehouse spaces had room for a full, “permanent” practice field).

The tin mints have always been a community team and didn’t actually have a home until September of last year. We had been working out of our mentor teams shop for almost a year. We went to local realtors and other things and had no luck. We ended up lucky that one owned a mall in our area and was able to donate a 5,000 sq.ft space that we could fit our JrFLL, FLL, and FTC out of too. They were working out of a mildewy basement for three years at that point, And it wasn’t a great place to meet.

Being the coaches daughter I was more involved in this process then most, but my advice is to just keep reaching out. Go in person adult or even student as long as there is a plan. If you have to go to one hundred places before you find anything it’s worth it. Despite it being hard don’t give up, someone will say yes.

Our rookie year we built out of a parent’s garage. Years 2-4 we were essentially “squatting” in an unused area in a building in St. Paul - There was an engineering co-op on the first floor that sponsored us, and we got support/sponsorship from the building manager. Years 5-7 the school officially leased a space in that same building for us. Now we’re finally in a space at the school.

There’s another local team that is in a big empty area in the local mall.

When looking for a practice field you shouldn’t limit yourself. The best thing you can do in this situation is call any location that fits your criteria. When I was trying to find a practice field for my team I called a bunch of locations that turned me down but pointed me to the right direction. They gave me info to other places that might have been able to give me space and eventually I found a spot for free! The key here is persistence. Literally just bug everyone you know until someone gives you the space you want. Also make sure you stress the fact that you’re from a non-profit organization and that there’s some kind of benefit for them by helping you. Other than that good luck finding a place!

CRyptonite has used a location in a strip mall for the last three years, before that was out of a Mentor’s garage. We also have a large storge shed (shipping container) behind the school to store items not needed at the build site. The district is breaking ground for a new STEM center on the 28th with the hopes it will be completed and ready for occupancy in December. Being in Houston, moving in December isn’t like moving in December in the North.
If your sponsors can’t provide a space, see about funds to help with an off site location. The key is don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Good Luck.

Our team does not have a dedicated space at school - we set up in a classroom, have a meeting, and then pack up at the end.