As the person who negotiated the contract for the VEX World Championship in Dallas, I wanted to take a minute to answer some of the questions and address some incorrect assumptions that have been made regarding the 2011 VEX World Championship dates.
- How were the dates for the 2011 VRC World Championship selected?
A three-year agreement securing the Dallas Convention Center and Arena for the VRC World Championship was reached in the summer of 2008 – covering the 2009, 2010 and 2011 VRC World Championships. We agreed to the three years in Dallas for a variety of reasons, including: we knew the facility could hold a very high quality event, it had the space to allow well over 300 teams to participate, it was a large city with a great transportation hub for teams and it had dates available that did not conflict with FRC at that time.
- Why are the VRC World Championship and FIRST Championship scheduled on the same dates?
The date of the 2011 VRC World Championship was set almost three years ago. There were no other dates available (other than Easter weekend) and we knew that FIRST always scheduled their Championship in mid April. We contracted those dates (even though we would have preferred earlier dates) partially because we were trying to avoid conflicting with the FIRST Championship which we could only guesstimate would be scheduled the week or two before Easter in 2011.
- Did FIRST or VRC schedule their Championship to intentionally conflict with the other?
As explained above, I can assure everyone with 100% certainty that neither organization was able to avoid this conflict. Our understanding is that FIRST would have preferred earlier dates in April but none were available in St. Louis, and our 2011 dates were set in stone almost three years ago. Both organizations know there are schools and teams that participate in both programs. As most know, we are very supportive of the FRC program and Championship. Many (in fact a majority) of those that work at VEX and with the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation support and mentor FRC teams in addition to VEX teams. Many of us attend both the VRC World Championship and the FRC Championship each year, and not being able to attend one in 2011 is going to be difficult for all of them. We know this does not impact a “majority” of the teams that would attend the championship of either program, and both will still fill their Championships and host wonderful events. But regardless, we know firsthand that it will impact some very passionate, dedicated and amazing teams and volunteers who participate and support both programs (including many of our staff).
- Can you change the dates of the 2011 VRC World Championship?
Our plan and intention from the start of the 2009/2010 season was to announce the dates of the 2011 VRC World Championship when we unveiled the new game (Round Up) back in April. When FIRST announced their new Championship dates in St. Louis for 2011, we obviously knew at that time that they had secured the same dates we had already secured two years earlier. We then spent months working with Dallas and also with the other conventions/conferences already scheduled in the convention center in April to see if any could/would change dates with our event in 2011 – none could. We started a new search to see if any suitable facility in any other city would be available other weeks in April, willing to move the VRC World Championship to avoid the conflict – none were, but we continued to look. We postponed announcing the 2011 dates at the 2010 World Championship, still holding out hope that we might be able to find a way to reschedule it in Dallas or move it somewhere else. Once we had exhausted all possible avenues and knew there was no way to avoid the conflicting dates, we announced the dates to the public.
- Why is finding a week for the VRC Championship so difficult?
We (and FIRST) are both faced with a very difficult challenge to put on events of this size and scale in a very short time window of possible dates, while taking into account a variety of constraints, such as:
a. Schools have been very vocal over the years that they do NOT want the season to extend into May for a variety of reasons (Proms, state testing, finals – especially for the schools which end in May and so on)
b. With the huge network of over 200 VRC qualifying events, the World Championship can not be much earlier than April (as a temporary solution for 2011 we did look at dates in every city for March and even May, but still none were available).
c. Easter. The Easter holiday floats and changes dates each year – sometimes in late, mid or early April and even sometimes in March. Schools and families have been fairly unanimous when we have surveyed them that they would NOT want to attend events on Easter weekend (it is an important religious weekend for many, families travel, airfares are much more expensive, it would be difficult to send a team if key members/ teachers/ chaperones were unable to travel over Easter, etc…). This adds to the challenge faced by both VEX and FIRST and in some years limits the suitable choices to host an event to only 1 or 2 weeks (such as 2011).
Keep one thing in mind – VEX and FIRST are the two largest and most successful Robotics Competitions in the World. With both seasons ending towards the end of the typical school year in North America (April), it was not a matter of “if”, but a matter of “when” the Championships would eventually have conflicting dates due to the Easter holiday and the scarcity of facilities with open dates which can host events of this size. We had hoped to avoid such a conflict for as long as possible, and did everything in our power to do so, but in the case of 2011 Murphy enforced it’s Law and FIRST secured the same dates in St. Louis that VEX had already secured for Dallas.
Now that FIRST has secured their Championship dates in St. Louis for the next 3 years, we will certainly take those dates into account as we try to finalize our Championship dates for the next three years. We know some teams and volunteers will have a conflict in 2011, and we will work extremely hard to ensure that every team, participant and volunteer that attends the 2011 VRC World Championship will have an incredible experience they will remember for years to come.
I hope the information I’ve shared has helped clarify things and answer the questions many have asked. If I haven’t articulated anything clearly, or you have any additional questions, please let me know.