Spectator Reports our Good Friday story

Ken Wilson  has been in discussion with Specator reporter Drew Edwards. The following story appeared today!


Hamilton Cycling Club cancelled Good Friday Road Race in face of financial losses

For the Hamilton cycling community, last Friday was anything but good.

SPORTS 09:16 PM by Drew Edwards  Hamilton Spectator


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.”




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City Coun. Lloyd Ferguson is the chair of the police board, sits on the grant committee that doles out city funds and also represents the Ancaster ward that plays home to the race. He says he found out about the race’s cancellation — the decision was made months ago — while in a coffee shop this weekend.

“I had not heard a word from the organizers,” Ferguson said. “I’m puzzled why they call the media before they call me so I can try and help them.”

Ferguson says the city receives hundreds of grant applications and he’d be willing to investigate why the race has seen its funding decline. The policing costs, on the other hand, are a union issue and therefore difficult to mitigate.

“You can’t ask the police to give a reduction because its in the collective agreement,” he said. “We have to find a different way.”

But Ferguson says he sees value in the event, which has a long history in the city.

“Outdoor activity is always good and it’s something I’ve supported in the past and I’ll continue to support it,” he said. “Tell them to call me.”

Wilson said the club discussed approaching council, but said their experiences haven’t always been positive. It was the city that forced them to move the race from Flamborough to Ancaster in 2013 after a few area residents complained about road access, which led to an increase in costs.

“City hall is reactionary, not proactive, so sometimes you have to press the right buttons to get a reaction,” Wilson said. “But maybe Ferguson can be helpful for next year.”


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