After more than three decades of coaching young, amateur boxers in the ring, Ken McInnis feels he's facing one of his biggest fights outside the ring.
McInnis, who runs the Lights Out Boxing Club out of the Richmond Sports Club in the north east part of the city, said the cost of staging boxing events locally has become so expensive he fears the sport could be down for the count.
"Holding these types of events, inviting boxers in from other parts of the Lower Mainland and the rest of the province to come and compete - I'm getting priced out of the market," McInnis said, adding even community- based options such as the Richmond Oval proved to be cost prohibitive.
"Richmond has a lack of affordable spaces for boxing. I've had to move to four locations over the past five years as property owners have sold their buildings and built condos," McInnis said. "And the city doesn't care - it means more tax money for them, while sports like boxing, which has a long history in Richmond, gets squeezed out."
McInnis had hoped to host an event at the oval last year and was encouraged to hear the city has a Richmond Sport Hosting Grant Program which can provide non-profit groups up to $3,000 based the event's potential to draw visitors - and their economic spinoffs - to Richmond.
But, he felt clobbered when told the cost of renting space inside the oval would cost $1,390 a day and his hosting grant was calculated at a mere $97.
"It costs me $250 a day to rent 100 chairs for spectators, so what's $97 going to do for me?" McInnis said, adding he'd planned to run the event over two days on a break-even basis, with any profit going to local charity. "It just wasn't going to be viable."
Instead, McInnis found another venue and put on the fight card, losing about $700 in the process after selling about 125 tickets for an event meant to showcase and foster young talent in the "sweet science," which is getting hefty competition from other sports such as mixed martial arts.
"This was an amateur event, and you can only charge about $10 to $15 a ticket because you mainly get friends and family out to watch," McInnis said. "With what the oval was going to charge me, I would have to charge upwards of $40 a ticket. And you're just not going to get that."
The experience has left McInnis soured, not only on what he perceives as the "elitist" nature of the oval, but the inability to find a viable home for a boxing event elsewhere in the city.
"You know, over the years I've trained boxers who have gone on to proudly compete at regional and national events. They've all benefitted from boxing later in their lives," McInnis said. "Now, it seems places like the oval are meant only for the real high profile sports groups. And I fear boxing is losing out."
But plenty of other community level sports groups seem to find the oval a viable venue, said City of Richmond spokesman Ted Townsend.
"We have more than 70 community groups that run programs and events at the oval, and we've hosted more than 100 different sports at the facility," Townsend said. "And if it wasn't financially accessible, I don't think we'd have that number of groups participating at the oval."
Townsend added community level organizations are granted a significant discount for use, while the oval staff work closely with groups to address the specific needs of an ongoing program or short-term event to ensure an accurate estimate is provided.
"Every effort was made to try and accommodate their event both at the oval and other local venues, and staff invested considerable time trying to assist the event organizer and offered many alternatives to make the event viable, but were unable to come to a mutually agreeable solution," Townsend said.
According to the city, grant applications are reviewed by Richmond's Sport Hosting Task Force, which provides guidance and feedback regarding the direction of the sport hosting strategy and administers the sport hosting incentive grant program.
Last year, the task force approved 46 grant applications worth $105,000. In 2010, when the program started, the total was $46,000. That rose to $66,500 in 2011.
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