Questions about off-season events

Hey guys! My team is considering doing an off-season event next year, and I was wondering what it takes to start one. More specifically, money needed to get field plus FMS, space needed, general tips for starting an event. Thanks!

Here’s a link based on IRI.

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Here are the things I would consider when trying to decide to host an off-season event.

  1. Why do you want to host an event? Fundraiser? Train volunteers?

The Rumble in the Roads started to prove that our area was ready to host district events and help convince the now CHS leadership that the transition to districts should be made. Since then we’ve worked with CHS leadership to train new key volunteers for positions our area and the district was lacking.

  1. What kind of event are you going to run? As close to in season as possible? All girls? Gimmicky rules? How many days will the event be?

The Rumble in the roads has always attempted to be as close to a real even as possible. The goal is to get as many matches into the single day event as we can.

  1. Is there actually a need for this new event? Are there other off-season events in the area? If so, are they filling up?

The Rumble in the Roads actually replaced an event that used to run about an hour away. Robot Rumble > Robot Rumble in Hampton Roads > Rumble in the Roads. The next closest event was 3-4 hours away and we saw a need in the surrounding areas to get more teams attending off-season events. Until this year we actually provided a discount on the registration fee if you were registered for another off-season event that year.

  1. Where are you getting a field? Does your local Region/District have one? Rent one from AndyMark?

Until CHS started in 2016 we rented from AndyMark. You’ll be required to “rent” one of their FTAs. Now we split the shipping and storage fees for a CHS field with the other in district off-season events.

  1. Where is the money coming from? Sponsors? Registration fees?

You’re looking at about 10-15k to run an event. The first year the Rumble in the Roads had about a $20 profit (boy was I sweating bullets).

  1. Where are you hosting the event? Your school? Another team’s school? Some other venue?

The first few years we ran the Rumble in the Roads out of our school. Because we were a school club we did not have to pay to rent the building but we did need to pay janitor and security fees. Make sure you have all of those details set with your school and they know what to expect so they can set the staffing correctly and you know exactly how much it is going to cost.

  1. Where are you getting volunteers from?

We were lucky that we were already good friends with most of the key field volunteers for the Virginia Regional when we started the Rumble in the Roads. Having an experienced field crew makes the event much easier to run. Set up the list of volunteers you think you are going to need for the event and make sure you start getting the key volunteers locked down early.

  1. When are you going to open registration? How are you going to get the word out?

We have found that opening registration towards the end of the season will net you a large registration group right away, then you’ll have a summer lull, then get another group as school starts back up. The Virginia leadership and now CHS leadership has always been extremely helpful in marketing the events in our area.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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Based on my understanding of most off-season events, you essentially need to get sponsorship to pay the costs of putting on the event, including the venue, renting a field, and incidental expenses. Most offseason events cost about $200 or $300 for teams, so I expect it is difficult to get much more than that from teams unless you’re the only offseason event in many hundreds of miles. As such, you need to line up sponsors to pay for the event, and key volunteers and a volunteer crew that will get you most of the way through the event before you make any announcements. And OBTW, if you can make the announcement at the local regionals, way much the better, because it can be difficult to get in touch with many teams between their last official event each year and kickoff the next year.

That’s another thing, we spent multiple years scraping together our own contact information database before opening registration for our first event.

From the FIRST website

We have run a full FRC field for our Northern Minnesota Robotics Conference Championship event for the past 3 years. www.nmrconference.org

It is a Massive undertaking especially the first year. (many hundreds of man hrs)
I can share some specifics if you wish, just PM me.

2338 has looked into this possibility as well. DM me and I can get you into contact with our coaches, see if we can help out.

So this is always the major hangup to starting a new off-season event. Costs and venues can be arranged on your own but without a real field (and electronics), it will be very hard to have a successful event. Your three options really come down to borrowing (or renting) from a district that is willing to ship to you, renting from AndyMark, or ‘renting’ from FIRST.

FIRST does not charge for using a field, but you have to provide insurance and the transportation from FIRST to you and back, in a timely fashion. Sometimes FIRST may have a field stored in a location closer to you than NH, or being used by another event that may share the transport costs and logistics with you.
If you rent from AndyMark there is a base fee, plus their transport fee, and additional fees for services that can be provided for your convenience such as consumables.
If you find a district that is willing to send you a field, that will be between them and you on costs, liability, transport, and consumables.

Once you figure out the source for your field, next requirement are the consumables. FIRST does not typically provide carpet, floor covers, a practice field, extra hardware, game pieces, tape, zip ties, tools, signage, etc.! If you go through AndyMark you can rent a carpet and buy the consumables from them. I would suggest if you start planning now for a 2020 event, ask your local regional planning committees next year what they are doing with the carpet after the regional event, usually if no one has claimed it yet, they will give it to your team in return for helping disassemble the field after the final awards ceremony. FIRST does have a listing in their Off-Season planning page, of the quantity of consumables suggested per event.

Another requirement from FIRST is for an FTA, certified for that year, to be present from set up to tear down, if you would like to use the electronics and FMS. Typically if you use an FTA from outside the immediate area, it is expected you would cover their travel and lodging, and compensate them for their time. FIRST can provide a list of FTA’s available from your area. AndyMark also has FTA’s on staff that they will provide for an additional cost.

My last suggestion in relation to the field is about set up and tare down. In addition to an FTA to manage the unpacking, set up, tare down, and repacking; it is imperative to have a crew to help set up that is familiar with the procedure and that specific years field, to make it all go smoothly. You do not want to have only the FTA being familiar with the field construction because then they will have to supervise every step to make sure it is all done correctly, which becomes laborious and time consuming. You can have some “rookie” field builders involved, but you should have at least half a dozen well experienced field builders helping out.

Good luck and feel free to reply or pm me with questions.

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Small correction: You do not have to rent an AndyMark FTA, but if you use field electronics (as any event beyond a goofing-around demo should) you must have an FTA. The last two years at SCRIW, we’ve used Juan Chong from North Carolina and had Jeff Taylor (who is a beast, but is not an FTA) drive the field down from Indiana.

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You may consider running an off-season event that isn’t last year’s FRC game - this will help with your teams resources, time, and space. My former team hosts 3 fall “events,” might want to check them out here:
https://www.team1540.org/overview-fall-events

another question, how much does renting a field cost in general?

We rent one from our “local” faction of FIRST. Full field everything included. I think it is about $1,500 plus we provided transportation before and after our event (about $1,200)

What are the major contributors to this number? Are they just a few things that take up the majority, or is does the cost just add up to that when it’s all said and done?

The lessons learned document from our inaugural event contains a sanitized version of our 2014 budget. Over the years we have had to spend less on durable materials, freeing up cash for other stuff that has raised the quality of the event.

I am interested what pushes it from 2700 field rental and transports to over 10k. Assuming the facility rental is donated. I assume a few hundred to pay custodial staff. A few hundred in signage, printing, marketing, etc. Hotel and travel for staff maybe $1000. Awards no more than a couple hundred. Staff t-shirts maybe $600. Catering could be a ??. Then a few hundred in incidentals.

Putting number I am in the 5-7 range. Am I missing something big. Maybe if you pay rent and all the cost for the facility it would top 10k.

Edit: saw Nate’s reply. Thanks. Other items were insurance and carpets. Some estimates were low like Security and awards.

Another approach would be to take the sample budget from the District Event Planning Guide and zero out the items that aren’t relevant to your offseason. I’d recommend this as an exercise during early planning