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Permitting for Events
Anyone that has directed a race can tell you that putting on an event is not as easy as picking an ideal course, on an ideal date, with an ideal charity partner, and then simply getting a permit as a formality.
According to the book, Organizing Running Events, by Phil Stewart, race director of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile race in Washington, DC, you need to allow six months or more for the permitting process from start to finish. The length of time for your permitting process will depend on the distance of the race, complexities of the event, expected participant numbers for the race, and other factors that effect putting on a local road race.
Be sure to understand the the important “P’s” of the permitting process: planning prevents poor performance in permitting.
It is important to understand the standards of review of a government board. In a nutshell, you need to know the permitting process in your community well in advance of planning your event and applying for a permit. You certainly need to clearly understand the permitting requirements and process long before you start selling race registrations. It is unethical to sell race registrations before beginning the permitting process.
Understand the “P’s” of working with your local government, which includes: process, people, priorities, and political environment.
Do your homework to know the process. Learn about the people involved in the process. Learn about local priorities for events including economic impact opportunities. Understand the political environment. Does your community have a physical activity plan that you can capitalize on to promote your event?
Next you will need to focus on dotting your “I’s” as you prepare your permit application which includes: issues, interest, institutions, information, and Influence.
Issues: Learn about and understand what issues may come up during the permitting process. Perhaps your proposed date already coincides with another event on the calendar. Perhaps there is planned road construction on a preferred course route. Trying to forecast issues can help you plan for solutions throughout the process.
Interest: Why should the community have an interest in supporting your event? This is where you will want to spend some time and effort researching the potential economic impact of your race for the community. You can also include information about the races’ potential health impact benefits in support of national efforts to promote physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices. Working with your local Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau or Sports Commission can help you identify community interests and how to capitalize on the services of these groups to make your event a success.
Institutions: Know what agencies and/or community groups will be involved in the permitting process. In some areas such as Washington, DC, event directors can work with several different law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Park Police, Capital Police, and D.C. Police depending on a proposed route. Event directors will also work with multiple agencies within the DC government for sanitation, transit, and more. Also know what community groups, businesses, faith-based organizations, and other groups will be impacted both positively and negatively by your event. According to Stewart in Organizing Road Events, “if your race is held on a Sunday and goes by any churches, you may have to make modifications to the start time of your event.”
Information: According to LaForge, “Information is like currency in the permitting process. The more you have the better off you will be.” Use information to educate officials and advocate for the common benefit of your race. Provide facts, figures, and special interest stories. If your event is to raise money and awareness for charity, be sure to outline how the charity benefits the local community and will benefit from your race. If the race director has been a tax paying resident for many years, don’t overlook that important fact in your information.
Be sure to review and rehearse your proposal and presentation. Even if you only get a few minutes with a local official to present your event, come prepared with a clear and concise plan for your road race.
Being prepared includes working with officials to modify elements of your race to find a win-win scenario with your local permitting official as part of the process. Your plan should include options for alternate dates, changes to your desired course, changes to your desired start and/or finish location, and other considerations.
Once your permit is issued, your job with your local permitting agency is not done. Your next task is to stick to your plan as outlined and deliver what you proposed in your permit. If you plan on hosting the event year after year, it will be important to maintain a positive, productive, and perpetual relationship with local officials throughout the year. By doing this, you can make the permitting process for your event easier the next time around.