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Entry Fee Costs

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  • Entry Fee Costs

    Hey Everyone,

    I wanted to take the time to discuss contest entry costs.

    So I have been back in IMAC this season from a 10 year hiatus. Happy to be back.
    I have been pushing to get others back in, as well as bringing in some new people.
    One thing I noticed that has changed, and is becoming a hurdle getting new people involved as well, is the entry costs.

    Not sure about other regions but the events here in the North Central have been $40/60. Pretty standard minus an event
    in Indiana in September is doing $35.

    Now I can hear it already... "whats wrong with $40/60?"

    Well when you are going to several contests a year that adds up. When you are trying to get a new person to get into the contest
    they look and say "well why is it more money then just going to a $20 fly-in?" Let alone if you are trying to get a Father and Son involved
    do you think they are going to spend 80/120 a weekend for 2 of them to fly? No they wont

    Other RC events are usually $20-25. The ones that are charging more lets say $60, you get a T-Shirt and dinner.
    Here especially since Covid. you are 40-60 to fly? Is there a reason? No T-Shirt, No dinner, and maybe a decent plaque maybe.

    Just seems to me, the IMAC community as a whole cries for new people, and keeping the community they have, then wonder why people leave. (yes I know there's alot of reasons people stay or leave)
    A lot of money for an IMAC airplane, then adding 40/60 each weekend, on top of hotels. To cost twice as much just to fly at an IMAC contest ran by the same
    clubs that charge less for a Fun-Fly weekend? Why? Is IMAC getting a cut? Are the clubs needing more incentive to have an IMAC contest?

    Seems something so simple, especially when it all gets donated to the club, (that most clubs arent setting the price as the Fun-Flys are cheaper)
    should be addressed.

    I am trying my best to get new people involved, and this is one of the biggest hurdles I am having to get around.

    Thanks for listening.
    Jamie Hicks

  • #2
    First, the clubs themselves set the fees. Via the CD hosting it. You have to remember it is not a standard contest. It is usually a club willing to close there flight field for 3 days. 1 day of practice, and 2 days of competition. The $20 difference refers to an IMAC member vs a Non IMAC member. A membership for a year in IMAC is $40.00 thus you save the $20.00 per comp you fly in as a member of IMAC. There is always a $20.00 split between IMAC members and Non IMAC members. So if $35.00 for an IMAC member, then $55.00 for a Non IMAC member, etc. And I can not speak for other events, but here in SC we always give "1st Timers" a free event if they have never competed before. Or they can pay the $40.00 and get the contest and 1 year IMAC membership with it. Again, for first time pilots trying out the sport.

    2nd, I have never attended a competition where we were not fed a minimum of Saturday Lunch and Sunday Lunch. Most here (again in SC) includes breakfast and dinners on Saturday. Usually more food than I could possibly eat in a weekend. And some go as far as to feed them a dinner on Friday night though most times the pilots want to gather at a restaurant and eat. And my personal contest here in Sherman I do Brisket dinner for everyone with all the "fixin's.". And we do have some pretty nice awards for all classes 1st thru 3rd including Seniors and FreeStyle.

    The $20 or $25 event fun flies you mention, are usually because the clubs are not shut down to their own members from flying. At least what I have seen.

    And as to any monies from a contest coming back to IMAC. No, none of the proceeds of a IMAC event come to IMAC. It is all for the club to recoup their costs and make a few dollars to again, make shutting field down for a 3 day event worth it to them.

    And I am speaking only from my perspective of SC events and the events I have traveled to in other regions.

    Doug Pilcher


    • #3
      Thanks for the response Doug.

      The warbird events and the 3D events or what have you, usually still make any of the club members pay to fly at the event there as well.
      Those events shutdown the field just like the IMAC events.

      Maybe since Covid but all the food and stuff is extra club money up here. I dont mind paying for a lunch, but if you will charge lunch then the entry fees should be lower.

      I understand the member to non member incentive, but why not 20/40?

      When people decide how they want to spend their time in the RC Hobby, costs are a big thing.
      You can go fly at a 3D fun fly, fly big airplanes, as much as you want, for half the costs to be there.

      The clubs see the same expenses from a 3D event, to a Warbird event to an IMAC event and so on. All the same just a different label from a cost stand point.

      Where is the hidden IMAC costs thats unique to IMAC to justify charging more? I cant find one.

      This is driving new people away. I know it first hand.

      Jamie Hicks


      • #4
        Not to mention, most clubs I have seen are happy to have an Event. They want the field used, and any money made is a plus to them and goes to the club.


        • #5

          I do understand the incentive behind the IMAC member discount, but from a marketing new people stand point. You are penalizing VIA costs for being new. Think about that...

          In a lot of ways, in hopes of attracting new members to IMAC you are actually turning people away by making them pay more to try it.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Doug Pilcher
            …And my personal contest here in Sherman I do Brisket dinner for everyone with all the "fixin's….
            I need to attend that contest


            • #7
              Originally posted by David Pierce

              I need to attend that contest
              Would love to have you David.
              Doug Pilcher


              • #8
                If there is a way to improve our participation numbers I think the discussion is always worth having.

                Without getting too deep here I would like to add two points. The first is that I don't think it is fair to compare a contest event like IMAC with an open fun fly style event like a warbird rally or huckfest. An non-competitive event is almost guaranteed to draw more participation than a contest, which in turn allows for a lesser entry cost that will net the club the same profit for losing the club that weekend. Open events also offer the chance to gain more spectators as they are usually more entertaining to watch. This gives the club a chance to share admission, sell more concessions, sell more raffle prizes, etc. While I would encourage CD's to push contest promotion and entice spectators, IMAC does not exactly have the draw that other style events have. I feel it would be more fair to compare a typical pattern, scale or soaring contest to base this discussion.

                Secondly, I think there is absolutely something worth discussing when it comes to discounts that will draw new people in and similarly standardizing our contest entries. First year discount, youth discount, family discount all have merits to get people interested.

                While I don't think that a single entry fee cost is a big enough road block alone to change someone's mind for participating (compared to cost of travel, hotel, food, minimal flying, ect.) I think there are definitely ideas that we can explore to hook new participants to continue filling the lower classes and keep IMAC running.
                Matt Komar
                - North Central ARD
                - Team AJ Aircraft / Team Makin Bacon
                - 2018 IMAC Worlds Team USA Member


                • #9
                  Thinking back some years (about 10 or so) yes the contest entry fees were in the $35 range typically - some less. Average attendance at a contest (speaking only of the SE region) was typically in the low to mid 20's pilots. At that time, IMAC received between $3 - $5 per pilot from the contest and these funds were used in turn to fund the regions for their annual costs - much of which went to the regional finals typically.. Fast forward and the IMAC dues were increased and with that increase the pilot fees from contests were eliminated. Funding for the regions came from the general IMAC funds.

                  Again going back the 10 years it was not uncommon to return a tidy sum to the club after all expenses which might include dinner, plaques, pilot drawing items and so forth. Over the years the attendance level dropped gradually to where now a contest with 10 - 12 pilots is considered a "good" turnout. Many times it's scraping pretty hard to get 10 folks to attend. As a result, the return to the club is limited and the 'extras' like dinner, plaques, etc are increasingly rare.

                  So I see it as a chicken and egg sort of thing. Was the contest attendance caused by the entry fee increase ? Or was the entry fee increased to compensate for lower attendance ? I tend to come down on the attendance side as the numbers of folks attending contest has been steadily dropping for many years now.

                  There's been lots of things tried - like free entry for first timers, Novice program, Basic only contests / primers to attract folks into the fold. To date there are fewer people in the lower classes than I can ever remember. When I was flying Basic, not uncommon to have 5 or so pilots and Advanced might have one. Now the situation is reversed.

                  So if it's the entry fee, by all means change it. If that will get attendance back go for it. I'm not so sure...


                  • #10
                    One thing that might help reduce CD costs - and this is not a new idea - would be to eliminate awards for Intermediate / Advanced and Unlimited. I fully support pilot awards for Basic to encourage people to fly and come back next time. I am OK with awards for Sportsman for similar reasons. I am also OK with first place awards for the upper classes. But frankly how many of us that have flown in a lot of contests need another third place plaque. I think most of us that fly in Intermediate and above are participating for other reasons than winning awards. I know I will be beat by Matt K every time and my enjoyment comes from just being with him and many good friends for the weekend. My interest in IMAC at this point is in the challenge of flying the maneuvers and seeing how well (or poorly LOL) I can do it. Also being an old fart I am not sure I need a Senior's plaque.

                    My point here is the awards cost CD's a lot. I think we could economize but still provide encouragement to new participants. Nats/ Worlds/ Tucson are events where full awards are justified. But weekend contests could save some money.

                    The things I treasure most is when there is a photo guy who takes a photo of me and my plane and he/she emails me the photo so I can print it and hang it in my work room. I can look at it and smile about the good time I had in Saranac / KRAM's / Jackson etc etc

                    The average weekend contest on the other side of the border costs me $400 - two nights in a hotel, gas, food and entry fees. Keep in mind that $400 US is like $1000 Canadian LOL. Pardon the exaggeration, more like $500. It is not cheap and I am not rich but I plan and budget for several contests each year. I played golf with my sons last week and to play nine holes in two hours cost me $40. In comparison I do not think that $40 is out of line for an IMAC contest entry fee. But $60 is too much IMHO. Very few participants should have to pay $50-60. The flexibility is there for CD's to charge reduced fees for new Basic pilots. At the same time if you fly Sportsman and above you really should be an IMAC member to support all the work that the Sequence Committee puts into Unknowns. If someone shows up to fly Advanced / Unlimited and is not an IMAC member then they deserve to pay $60.

                    IMAC is not a cheap hobby (my wife reminds me frequently) but it is something I plan for each year. At the same time for new Basic / Sportsman pilots I would encourage whatever we can do to make their participation reasonable. We need to cover CD costs. CD's should not have to kick in funds just to break even. People should not expect free meals. Often the only revenue any of our IMAC hosting clubs receive is from selling hamburgers at lunch.

                    Our focus needs to be encouraging participation. Keep costs reasonable for new pilots but make sure CD's at least break even or bring in a few $$ for their clubs. Happily the pandemic has not discouraged pilots on this side of the border. We are seeing new interest and people are enthusiastic about contests in 2022. I am also hopeful that the border will open soon and I can once again fly with my great US friends.


                    • #11
                      Good point Bill. I have lots of plaques hanging around (not so many lately !) that frankly I never look at. Many wind up in boxes somewhere. Plaques / trophies are expensive - in $250 - $300 range US - for all 3 places in each class plus Seniors and Freestyle. On top of that, if you order plaques for all the classes and then some classes don't have at least 3 pilots, you're stuck with a useless award. For some years now I have taken photos of each pilot and their planes as you've suggested and turned those into awards for those that placed and just photos for those that didn't. I can do that in the neighborhood of $50 for all classes.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Steve Sides
                        For some years now I have taken photos of each pilot and their planes as you've suggested and turned those into awards for those that placed and just photos for those that didn't. I can do that in the neighborhood of $50 for all classes.
                        Steve - I have to say that I enjoy the photos more than the plaques. I just think having to spend $300-400 on plaques is something we could eliminate. With too many contests only attracting 12-14 people, it is hard to justify the expense. When there were 25-30 pilots it was easier to cover the costs.

                        I confess I did a major cull of 2nd and 3rd place plaques over the past year. I keep the 1st place ones - as you say those are few and far between - but my relatives who see all the first place plaques in the work shop think I am some kind of hot shot pilot who wins all the contests LOL !!

                        As you pointed out I really feel bad for the CD's who have a full set of awards and then only 1 pilot shows up to fly in Advanced or Unlimited.