Tank's Training Facility has hosted 12 sanctioned powerlifting meets at our facility in the past nine years. Eight of them have been SPF, two of them have been IPA, and one was USAPL. There are a lot of things to organize if you plan on hosting a meet. For this article, I'm going to go through some of the things you need to plan for and give you examples of how we did it for our most recent competition.
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On Saturday, September 16, 2017, we hosted a deadlift only meet sanctioned by the IPA. We ended up having a good turnout despite my initial feeling about doing it this way. About two to three months ago, one of our lifters mentioned to me how cool it would be to have a deadlift only competition at the facility. He attempted to convince me that this would be a great idea and that he would lift in it. I gave it very little thought after that until a few others approached me with similar ideas. They pointed out that doing that event around the same week we were testing the majority of our team made sense. If we were going to do it, I wanted to tie other local foundations or businesses with it in order to help promote them as well.
Anyone who owns a facility or gym and has hosted a powerlifting meet should know what a pain in the ass it can be to put one together. Examples of challenges include constant back-outs from lifters (who promise or guarantee they are competing), setting up (chairs, tables, cleaning, moving, etc.), and finding reliable help from all sorts of people (spotters, loaders, handlers, announcers). I don't want to sound negative because there are so many great things that happen at the meets. You will have some entering who have never competed in this sport before and end up falling in love with it. Local people will come to your facility and check the place out and possibly join. Running a meet at your gym can be a great thing.
However, making a profit is tough! It would be great to think we do this merely for the sport, but making money rather than losing money is why the majority of us do it. We all have to pay bills and feed our families. At the close of this past deadlift event, I walked away close to breaking even. After paying the sanction fee to the IPA, paying money to the charities I had involved, paying for the trophies and medals, paying the top women and top men cash prizes, paying for the shirts, and general fees, it was hard to make a profit.
You might read this and ask, "Why would you worry about a profit? Isn’t it for fun?” Well, yes and no. I wish it could be, but someone has to keep the lights on.
For sanctioned powerlifting meets, there is a fee charged by every federation. This is standard. Most lifters want their lifts to count towards something and have proof and recognition that their lifts were judged properly and strictly. Most federations demand to have high-end judges or someone heavily involved with that particular federation in order to monitor the meet and make sure all is run correctly and smoothly. Some federations charge a flat fee for this and some will work with you depending on what type of meet you are hosting.
Trophies and Medals
Trophies and medals are important as well. I am not a believer (and never have been) at all that everyone should get a trophy or medal for participating. For our meets, I do feel that the top lifters by formula and the next closest second or third should get something. At our meet, the best lifter (male or female) got a huge statue, which was really cool-looking. The other best male and female lifter by formula got trophies and the second and third place lifters got medallions. The price for these was upwards of $100. Again, some meets go crazy and overboard and spend way more than that.
In addition to the trophies, we also gave cash back to the best female and male lifters. The amount was dependent on how many lifters entered. All powerlifting meets need to have some sort of cash prize. Nobody can make a living being a powerlifter and participating in meets, but it is nice to get some sort of cash back for the top lifters. The best lifters by formula should get a cash prize, and the amount can again depend on how many lifters are in the meet.
Charities, Sponsors, and Partner Organizations
If you plan on hosting a meet, you should always consider partnering with other local businesses. We had three charities at the event and donated money back to all of them. IPA was very gracious helping us some and discounting their charge. The charities represented were Strange Cares (Donuts), GCPD Wives, and Got Your Six Support Dogs.
Strange Donuts (charity Strange Cares) is a huge donut business in our area. Our powerlifting squad has been attending their fundraisers for the last four years and we always have a blast. They have killer food, great alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, live DJ's, cool stuff to do, and much more. I made friends with the owner Jason a few years back at this event and really enjoyed talking to him and knowing what he does for the area. There is a huge tie-in for deadlifts and donuts and I thought it'd be great for the event. I presented this to him and he, without question, said yes. They rocked it the day of the event. He brought some gooey butter cake donuts, maple bacon donuts (with a thick cut of bacon on top), and their very popular glazed donut. Along with this, they are now making a cold brew coffee that is amazing. All of this was free to attendees and lifters. Strange Cares is a donut-driven nonprofit focused on empowering kids’ lives with help from partners Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Children’s Heart Foundation, and Girls on the Run.
The next company was Skull Smash Ammonia Inhalants. Steve Welch (a fellow powerlifter) owns this business and is gaining national and world recognition. He even sponsors some powerlifters (including elitefts team member Jo Jordan), strongmen, and other athletes. He has always been awesome in giving back to the sport. I know at some events he doesn't make a dime, but in my opinion, getting his product out there helps a ton to gain big time popularity.
1 Stop Supplements was another business involved at the event. Matt has sponsored me as an athlete for over 12 years and has always taken care of me big time. This is where we send all of our clients to get their supplements. Matt and his staff at both of his two locations are awesome. Believe it or not, they don't try to sell you extra crap you don't need.
Another charity that was there at the event was GCPD Wives. This is a local charity for our police department in my city of Granite City. Lately, the St. Louis and Metro East police problems have escalated and been in the news, becoming very dangerous for the police in all areas. The GCPD Wives is a foundation set up to help families financially in case of injury, hospitalization, or death (the worst case scenario). There are funds available for that family so they are taken care of in the case of a tragic incident. Christine Bailey and Deidra Cave (both members of our facility) are in charge of this. Christine is a part of our powerlifting squad and has competed before. She was awesome helping the day of the event.
Got Your Six Support Dogs was the last charity at the event. This was thought up by one of our lifters and coaches Nick Novacich. He asked if we could help them out, and without question, I agreed. I wasn't familiar with this foundation until he told me about them. Here is some information directly from the organization: "Got Your Six Support Dogs is a registered 501c3 nonprofit. We train and place PTSD service dogs with veterans and first responders at zero cost to the recipient. At Got Your Six Support Dogs, we believe hope is a four-legged word."
Branding and Advertising
Don't skip over thinking about how you will name your event and get it out there. This can make a big difference for attracting interest. We called our event "Deadlifts and Strange Donuts." We had to be careful of wording due to something one of our lifters notified me of: there is a social media star who I guess owns or has trademarked a similar phrase and brand. We didn't want to get in trouble with copyrights or something that was already out there. Apparently, she has done very well with this brand. This makes sense now, as I have seen and heard the deadlift and donuts thing a lot on social media and never got it before (I guess I'm an old school powerlifter, not a new age one). The tie-in was great and with the sponsors on board, we made a really cool logo.
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Those of you who train at my facility or follow us have probably seen or met Quinton and Celeste O’Brien. They are very unique and a great fit for the facility. Most of the lifters and clients we have are “outside the box” and different on a great level. They offered to make the logo, which led to a huge banner, our shirts, and advertisement. They just do stuff like that for fun; they are not graphic design artists by trade. I can't thank them enough for the logo.
Location and venue play a huge part in hosting a powerlifting event. The cost of some venues can really add a lot to the promoter's cost. Fortunately, when a facility owner like me hosts, there is no extra fee for this. I have heard and seen horror stories when dealing with pricing for hotels, convention centers, or someone else's facility. Hosting at your own gym will make your job much easier for the event.
Entry and Spectating Fees
We didn't want to charge an arm and a leg for a one-event competition. We only charged $20 for entry and $5 for people to watch. Now, if you want to do the math, we had 30 lifters in the competition and maybe 50 to 75 people who came to watch. After everything is said and done, hosting a meet (of almost any kind, whether full powerlifting or just one event), there really isn't much room for profit. But after talking to my wife (my better half) she convinced me that just getting the name and brand out there and doing something good for the community was huge. If you have been keeping up with the news of what is going on in St. Louis, any positive message, fun event, or good news is a great thing!
In closing, we had a lifter from Bobby Betts' (Vice President of the IPA) facility in Tennessee, Heather Ashworth compete. She competed in the 165-pound class and at 19 years old, pulled 405 pounds, nearly got 425 pounds, and won overall best lifter and the best women's award. Bobby Simpson won the overall male with a good 715-pound lift. Both are young, up-and-coming powerlifters. Watch out for them. We also had some great lifters from upstate Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee put up some great numbers.
Hosting a meet is a lot like the gym business: you do it for the love of the sport and seeing the lifters and people enjoy their time. If you are doing it to make a living, trust me and talk with others, you will learn that it is a tough industry. Few keep their doors open for more than a few years.