Cost of Hosting Tournaments

Hi everyone! There is a group of students on my robotics team that is trying to convince our leadership team to give us the opportunity to host tournaments at our school. We have never hosted one before (in fact, we were asked to host this year but turned the offer down, as we didn’t have enough time to plan or budget left), and we are wondering about the cost of fields, ~power usage, and other expenses that people who host events have to deal with. If anyone has any information, I would greatly appreciate a response! We are already starting to plan for next year and figure out time and money stuff. Thanks!

  • Nate

Hosting events (we run 4-6 events at our facility, including middle-school states this year) makes up about 25% of our annual budget (we’re a self-funded community team). So you need to look at it from a business standpoint: there is a good profit to be made but you’ll need to look at expenses vs. income: cost of the facility (could be free if you’re part of a school or have an “in”, could be a rental cost), borrowing or renting tables, borrowing or buying fields and equipment. In southeast Michigan, we have an event trailer available for a nominal fee. Good concessions will make a profit, too.

Do you remember approximately how much the upfront cost was?

Can’t really come up with a number, we sort of worked our way into running events a little at a time without having to come up with a bunch of startup money. We use our college gym, we borrow tables from a couple local churches, we have acquired most of our fields through grants, and we have developed a big network of fellow event planners to borrow fields from other local teams over the years. You need to get with your RECF rep and network with the other EP’s in your area.

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Biggest costs are cost of venue (rental, custodian, security), awards, volunteer support (food, water, tshirt, etc. remember it will be the night before snacks, breakfast and lunch.) and disposables like paper, table coverings, etc. You may need to rent tables, chairs, extension and power strips, speaker system.

Make some calls and get your costs. Good luck, we need more events.

Thanks for your great response, this is super helpful! We’re fortunate to be a part of a large school with a triple-gym complex (perfect venue of fields, pit, and skills) which can provide a venue, A/V stuff, and some other needs we have. I will certainly make some calls and send some emails inquiring about cost. Thanks!

Then this is a great fundraiser and your home teams can participate for the $5 RECF if that’s feasible. If you are in an area where there are lots of competitions and you don’t want your home teams in your competition then you can arrange for swaps… I send three to yours and you send three to mine. So you make money AND decrease your costs!

You can make money off of concessions OR if you have a good service organization at the school they can do the concessions, make money for their program on the side which makes everyone like robotics even more. If everyone loves you, you can do what you want!

Get money -> get more V5 -> In 8 weeks!!!

We created “field boxes”. Each field box contains:
2 25’ Ethernet cables - red and blue
1 VEXNet controller
1 USB Type A to B cable
1 Raspberry Pi in a case (Recommend 3B+ with the built in wireless) and SD card
1 Pi - power supply – ours have on/off switches
1 HDMI - HDMI cable
1 HDMI - VGA cable
2 50’ Ethernet cables - purple
1 Cube tap
all of this in an Orange Homer box along with
2 Towers with Ethernet cables (ours stay ziptied to the towers) - pro tip, get thumb screws to attach the Z bracket to the field.

We have three sets. Pro tip, get colored tape, put color tape on all the cables, Pi, etc. to keep everything in a field set together (red, yellow and white are our colors).

This will let you either set up fields using Raspberry Pi controllers and then do ethernet or do old school VEXNet back to control central. Raspberry Pi goes at the field and you can plug an optional monitor on the field. You need to drag power to the field (extension cords in another box). Cube tap lets you plug in Pi, Monitor, and feed another field with power.

The control central box has
Wireless router
16 Ethernet port switch
Additional Ethernet cables @6’ long
VGA to VGA cable
HDMI to VGA cable
VGA to HDMI cable
HDMI to HDMI cable – you can set this up to match the computers you own these are to let you connect an external display. Ours has all four since sometimes the “host” uses their computers.
Power strip
in Homer Box. (All this stuff has orange tape on it)

Display box has
3 Raspberry Pi in a case (Recommend 3B+ with the built in wireless) and SD card
3 Pi - power supply – ours have on/off switches
3 HDMI - HDMI cable
3 HDMI - VGA cable
3 cube taps
in a Homer Box

This lets you set up three different remote displays (Pit or Audience). We have 2 (green and blue tape) display boxes.

Here you go:
VRC event? Grab one field box (and towers) for each field and the control central box. Optional display boxes.
VIQ event? Grab central control box and display box.

Nice thing is you can do small events (one field, two boxes) or big events. If you are going to do events with divisions consider building two control boxes so your divisions can run separately.

*** There is a delay when using Pi systems over wireless ***
We connect the field Pi’s to the control switch by wires, the displays are wireless. The list above lets you do the fields either way.

Organization is the key! All things of one color come out of one box and back into the box. People helping you can actually help vs making a huge mess.

And that brings us to the last box. It has gaffers tape, masking tape, zip ties (4",6",10"), scissors, clipboard, pens, paper. Buy the good gaffers tape. Tape / zip cables. write down the addresses of the Pi’s, etc. it also contains two extra Ethernet cables for the towers and a competition switch (hand controlled skills field?) It our case it has a spare tower splitter and VEXnet to USB device. Hand full of thumb screws, regular field assembly screws and the right T-Handles for them.

For three fields you are looking at about $1000 for all the above.

On the pit side you will need a power strip for two pits (we bought ones with 8 foot cords). We have a giant flip top box with ~25 of these. I like the Arko-Mills ones and they come in colors too.

Extension cords, 25 and 50’ Also in a flip box.

We have about $500 worth of power stuff.

Good luck!

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If you want more people to talk about their experiences, I’m reasonably sure that hosting events is one of our largest sources of income. Also, you can rent fields from RECF for the tournament.

As an EP, there are parts that can make money. Make sure you know what your costs are before you set your fees.

end of the day, we are doing it for the kids . I am pretty sure I am out of pocket many team fees worth of expenses that I won’t get reimbursed. I gladly do it for the amazing students we work with. That said, don’t sweat the small stuff. Let kids play, make mistakes, eat, make new friends, and learn new things.

Yes, but they are trying to sell the idea to the school. Raising money for their expensive program is a great reason for the school to let them host an event!

Yes, it’s a way to make money. The point I was trying to make was you need to know what your costs are before you leap into the event. The overall equipment for scoring is kind of pricey, as outlined above.

Around snacks and drinks: You can make a lot of money at the snack stand if 1) you know your costs and 2) have a pretty good estimate on how much you will sell. You can sometimes get a local business price break for some advertising “Nino’s Pizza proudly supports STEM Robotics” posters around the facility. Bulk purchases will let you buy a pizza for $8 and sell it by the slice ($1.5 a slice) or by the pie ($11) and make some money.

Pro tip-- Check with the venue about food rules. For example, If you are assembling food in PA (ie, hot dog into a bun), you need to have someone there that has the PA food handler certificated. If you are selling assembled / pre packaged foods (Chickfilet Sandwiches) that are wrapped you don’t need one.

Branch out past cheese pizza! My favorite VEXMen events in PA showcase Indian food, they always sell out quickly.

Remember that you are having free food for people that help out, make sure that you have a way of managing it. We give “breakfast”, “lunch” and “snack” coupons out to control costs but also understand how much volunteer food costs.