Rent & Utilites for community teams

Edited Request:
I’m trying to assess the value of the space the school provides for my team.
For a comparison: Community teams that must rent a space, what is your annual budget for rent & utilities?

I just need a ballpark number.

This is going to vary widely based on geography, size of space, etc. Lots of community teams also have relationships with local business to provide them their spaces for free or at a discount.

What is your motivation in getting this data? Perhaps that can inform some better responses.

I realize that rent varies, even within the same county.
There was discussion about the savings a team has by being on campus vs. off campus/community - assuming that they must pay for their facility.
I hoped that a quick survey would give a general idea.

I don’t have numbers for you, except for two cents:

If you can stay on campus without being hindered too much, stay on campus. Even if you are offered a great deal off campus or can afford the rent, your stability at a school is likely much higher. If you are displaced when a lease or agreement expires, you will need to quickly find a new space.

Assuming that the school is moderately reasonable, stay. I understand that specific circumstances may vary and there may be a really urgent need to leave. But from your post, it sounds like you are weighing two options, so consider this.

We are not considering leaving our school. Our principal is very generous (we have a large “shop bay” - large enough for 1/2 a field, work space, 3 offices, and a storage mezzanine). He also installed a transformer for our new lathe (at no cost to us).
I’m trying to assess the value of the space provided.
I guess I should have led with that statement.

It really depends. Our rookie year, we worked out of a parents garage, which was free. The next few years we rented a space downtown - We were sponsored by an engineering co-op in the building, and they worked with the building manager to give us “whatever unrented space” was available for the few months during build season and a large closet for storage in the off-season. It meant our off-season work was pulling stuff out of the closet and using the co-op’s space. We were also in un-finished areas with minimal comforts (like tables or chairs). But on the plus side, it was only a couple hundred a month, and it was enough room to set up a practice field (no carpet, wood elements, and large pillars in the middle of the field, but better than nothing!). Then the school came in and signed a lease with the building manager, and we got a renovated place with proper lighting that we could set up in on a more permanent basis. I don’t know how much the school was paying, but I’m sure it was much more than we did! When we finally had a chance to get on-campus, we jumped at it and have been living out of the school ever since.

Edit to add: The team never paid for utilities for any of this. That was covered by the building manager, and later by the school.

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You could probably do a commercial realestate search and have better luck getting a number. Look for what warehouses are going for in your area by the square foot and calculate your value. Our off site holds a practice field and then some-not sure on the square footage, but it basically would cost us 2000 a month, plus about 1000 dollars in utilities-heating a giant room is not cheap!


One of the local teams worked out of a small strip mall in a residential area near their school. I believe the space was donated. There is a lot of unoccupied commercial properties here in Houston.

I suggest that you’re going about it the wrong way. Measure your space (approx), figure out how many square feet it is, then look at per-square-foot rental rates in your area for warehouse space and add 15% percent for utilities. Just poking around in your area, for example:

So, I’d think somewhere around $11 per square foot (per YEAR) gives a rough estimate of value.

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Why do you need to assess this value? Are you trying to determine your school’s sponsorship tier?

After posting the question, I realized that I should have searched for local retail/industrial spaces.
Most of the spaces that is equivalent to our space I found run about $14-16/ft2/yr.
I’m victim to my own post and think about it later syndrome.
Thanks for the research - it is thoughtful of you to do so.

Believe it or not - that’s a tough question.
It was more of an assessment of their contribution - not to place them in a tiered donation program.
This is more of me thinking that it was an easy question for CD to help me resolve.
I now realize that I should have just done a quick search of local retail/commercial properties.
Live and learn…At any rate, live .

It might be worth it to ask your district. For our grant program in Michigan we have to evaluate our districts support and room rental and utilities plays into that nicely. Our room is 33’x35’ with a bathroom and a 28’x9’ storage area. We are “charged” $800 per month in “rent” that is donated back to the program as a write off. This works out to be an even $8000 donation that is an easy cost to assess based on if the space was used by someone other than us. We even get July and August free!

Really we would get that space no matter what with no worries about funding, but our district does have a room rental agreement that is already prepared for outside entities (renting a gym or auditorium) that was used to find the cost of our space without much work. Most districts probably have something similar for facility usage already in place that would answer your question directly. The utilities part is way above my pay grade…

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For a smallish space (under 10,000 square feet) I would use $10/square foot with utilities. You can get huge chunks of space cheaper.


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That is highly dependent on where you live. In the town where our team works, it would be more like 15 to 20 $/ft^2

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Correct. I used North Charleston as a guide.


I second this. Consider talking to the school or district and determine if they can give you some kind of value. For example:

  • Do they rent out space to outside groups? If so, what do they charge for a similar space?
  • Perhaps they can assess their cost of renting the space to you for free.
  • Etc.

This is actually a pretty fantastic idea. Professionally, I work as a nonprofit executive, and too often I see things being written off as “well that’s provided for free.” However, it’s always a good business practice to account for the value of such items and ensure you would be able to meet the cost if that item were suddenly not available. This greatly aids in sustainability, ensuring you can still go on even if your most vital assets are taken away.

It’s also a good idea to know the value in terms of sponsor recognition (if the space is worth $5,000 annually, recognize the donor accordingly to your sponsor recognition program( Anway, I just wanted to say “kudos” for doing this, and it’s something I may try to implement with my community-based private team (we get both of our spaces for free, so I can’t really help you in terms of the question at hand, unfortunately).

I will also echo what was said earlier that it may be best to look at what commercial space in your area typically goes for per square foot. That is probably a much better calculation than asking fellow FIRST teams, because most FIRST teams don’t account for their build space in this way.


As another data point, 299’s umbrella nonprofit runs a budget – excluding space – of around $80k - $100k per year. Were we to rent this space (~2400 sq. ft. retail in Silicon Valley) on our own, it could easily cost up to $120k by itself – not including utilities, which we do pay for as-is. Beyond that though, in most cases (on the scale of an FRC team) the donor providing space is going to be an organization’s most important donor by far, regardless of what local rent costs look like; a good relationship with them means more than an uptick in teirbudget, it means stability, longevity, and security. More than anything else, your facilities will serve to both empower and constrain your program as a whole; imagine what getting a 90-day notice-to-vacate in November would do to a team’s build season. We, at least, put about as much focus and energy the relationship with our facilities sponsor as put into the entire rest of the list. We’re making progress on a ‘backup plan’, but there’s still a long ways to go yet.

On a more legal note, however, we actually don’t ‘value’ their donation like we would other direct or in-kind donations; in the standard nonprofit tax return form instructions, the IRS specifically notes to not report the value of donated services and facilities. They still form part of our budget, but with an asterisk.


I don’t know…it seems to me that hardly any FIRST teams have to pay going commercial rates for their work/meeting space. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be able to keep the team going.

If no one pays “full retail” for their space, then that hypothetical cost is meaningless.