Thursday’s late-night announcement canceling the season for all age group divisions and a lengthy prognosis from California’s governor as to when live sports will return to the state increased the likelihood of an all-out season end for the CrossFit Games. And while the community turned its focus to the pandemic several weeks ago, a key resolution passed by the city of Madison making an extension to the Games in Madison most likely went overlooked.
What happened: Just days before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, the Madison Common Council passed a resolution authorizing CrossFit the use of the Olin Park Boat Launch for the years 2020-2023. The boat launch and dock have been used each year of the Games as the staging, entry, and exit point for the swim event programmed for the competition, and a nearly identical agreement provided CrossFit Inc. use of the boat launch area from 2017-2019.
- The permit states explicitly that “WHEREAS, User (CrossFit Inc.) has indicated that it will continue to hold the Event (CrossFit Games) in Madison from 2020-2023,” and grants the CrossFit Games use of the boat park through 2023.
- Jamie Patrick, VP of the Madison Area Sports Commission clarified through a spokesperson that there have been general talks about an extension, but nothing specific, and the inclusion of 2022-2023 in the permit was more of a precaution.
- Up until the March 3 resolution, CrossFit did not have a permit to use the Olin Boat Park this summer. The resolution was passed in order to ensure that CrossFit had access to the park for the 2020 Games and chose to include additional years (2022 and 2023) so they wouldn’t have to revisit the boat park again should there be a second extension.
One big thing: It seems unlikely that Madison wouldn’t have arbitrarily voted to include an additional two years of permits if they didn’t feel a degree of confidence that an additional extension was possible. This at least confirms that conversations were happening before the pandemic forced a location change. It’s unclear if and when those conversations will resume.
Remind me: CrossFit’s original contract with Madison to host the CrossFit Games was for three years (2017-2019), which was extended for an additional two years until 2021. With the 2020 Games no longer happening in Madison, there’s currently only one year remaining in the Badger state. Destination Madison Director of PR and Communications Robert Gard indicated that due to the force majeure nature of the pandemic, the 2020 cancellation wouldn’t extend the contract further by a year.
Financially the move makes sense for both parties. Madison has been a terrific host for the CrossFit Games, effectively giving CrossFit the keys to the city to create a unique competition and spectator experience for athletes and the community at large. CrossFit has returned the favor by bringing in a significant amount of revenue for the city when school is out for the summer, and business is typically slower otherwise.
- CrossFitters bring in $12 million annually to Madison and Dane County thanks to spending at hotels, restaurants, bars, retail stores, and record-setting rental numbers for Madison’s B-cycle bike-share program.
- Madison Area Sports Commission estimates 55,000 attend the annual Games, which would make Madison the most popular host city in the Games’ brief 13-year history.
- CrossFit Inc. has also invested money into infrastructure improvements for the Alliant Energy Center and its venue, and the longer the CrossFit Games stay, the more return on investment they’ll see which would appear to be more important in the current climate.
Given the loss of revenue for the city from everything that’s already transpired with the 2020 season, an extension through 2023 would be a nice consolation for Madison and the rest of Dane County.
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