For the Hamilton cycling community, last Friday was anything but good.
The oldest continuously run race in Ontario — this year would have been the 66th annual — the Good Friday Road Race, was conspicuous in its absence, the victim of increasing costs and declining financial support from city council.
After years of heavy losses, the Hamilton Cycling Club can no longer afford to keep the event afloat, says vice-president and treasurer Ken Wilson. In 2017 alone, an unexpected cut in grant money from the city’s enrichment fund saw the non-profit organization on the hook for a $6,000 loss.
“We took a big hit last year and if wasn’t for money we had left over from other events, we would have been almost wiped out,” Wilson said.
Entry fees ranged from between $45 to $65 per rider, but the club has depended on sponsors and the municipality for support. City records show that the race, which brought between 400 and 600 high-level cyclists to the area for the first event on the provincially sanctioned schedule, has seen its city funding drop from a high of $15,276 in 2014 to just $7,350 last year.
“They city used to give us enough to cover the policing costs and we could actually make a little money out of the race to fund a youth program or to provide bicycles to club members and their kids,” Wilson said. “We never got an explanation as to why they decided to give us less money; I don’t know what the formula is. They keep us in the dark like mushrooms.”
In the meantime, the cost of holding the event continued to rise.
The single biggest budget item is policing, which was required to maintain rolling road restrictions along the course — a 15.9-kilometre loop south of the start-finish line at the Ancaster Fairgrounds. While the race uses only one lane (the other remains open) and the road is only restricted to vehicle traffic when riders are nearby, the city still determined that 16 police officers, two supervisors and eight cruisers were needed to keep things safe.
With officers receiving time-and-half — almost $70 an hour — and an “administration fee” of more than $2,000, the total bill in 2017 was almost $19,000. That’s an increase of more than 213 per cent since 2009.
“Every time the police get an increase in their wages, the price goes up and we’re paying them overtime, so that’s huge,” Wilson said. “We’re not the only organization in the city with this issue.”