GOAl should reconsider its lottery selection sysyem

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 3:32 PM

Keicha Christiansen

Lottery registration for one of my favorite races, the Ogden Marathon, opened last week. For a $5 non-refundable fee, I can register for a chance at being selected as one of the participants in the 2013 Ogden Marathon or Half Marathon. When the GOAL Foundation announced they would be going to a lottery selection process for future races there was outcry from some past runners of the race, myself included.

I don’t dispute the need for a lottery system to manage registration. One of the many things that makes the Ogden Marathon a favorite race for so many is the high quality of the participant experience, which includes balancing demand with the number of runners on a course that limits availability. GOAL Foundation puts on a quality event. I applaud them for the great work they do with small paid staff, along with a cadre of dedicated volunteers.

What I disagree with is the disregard towards Weber County and Ogden city residents who are being thrown into a lottery selection system along with the general public. As a Weber County and Ogden City resident, why should I, and others in my situation have to pay for a chance to be selected for a race we already support financially through taxes? Our local city and county taxes are used to provide and maintain much of the infrastructure used by race organizers. Other popular races that also run lottery registration systems, such as the St. George and Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon, understand this. Full-time residents of Grand and Washington counties are guaranteed entry into their respective local races.

The seeming lack of love for locals shown by GOAL Foundation is what has many past local participants upset. So far, none of the reasons given for how the lottery is being conducted have addressed this specific concern. I understand that the lottery will be skewed toward selecting in-state locals in keeping with previous percentages of Utah participants. Guess what? That still isn’t fair to Weber County residents. Not to mention that defining any Utah resident as a local seems a bit of a stretch in my mind.

Consider this. Between 2006-2011, the GOAL Foundation was awarded a total of $141,500 in RAMP grants, $112,500 of which was given for Ogden Marathon-related activities, including the Kids K and Young Runners Program. RAMP is a local sales and use tax collected within Weber County. The mission of RAMP is to improve the quality of life for all Weber County residents by enhancing Recreation, Arts, Museums and Parks. Having to pay for a chance at a spot in a race that’s been able to grow and succeed due partially to Weber County taxpayer support doesn’t exactly enhance my quality of life. In fact, it leaves a distinctly bitter taste in my mouth.

The taxpayer largesse to GOAL Foundation doesn’t end with RAMP. A portion of all Ogden city and Weber County property taxes, mine included, go towards the Weber County and Ogden City general funds, paramedic fund, and the emergency services fund. Our taxes help pay for the local police, fire, EMT, sheriff, and other government agency staff and municipal services that help with road closures, crowd control, and overall public safety on race day. A portion of the race course and the finish line area are in Ogden city, on roads, paths and parks operated and maintained by Ogden City. Additionally, for several years, GOAL Foundation has received $60,000 generated from tourism taxes to assist them in organizing, supporting and operating sporting events, including the marathon.

The GOAL Foundation was founded and received non-profit status in 2001 under the name Weber Cultural Legacy Foundation dba Goal Foundation. According to its most recent publicly available tax return, its mission is "To create and fund programs, events and activities relating to recreation, sports, arts, and education in order to establish a legacy that will honor and enhance the community spirit." That mission differs vastly from the one found on GOAL’s Web-site: "GOAL’s mission is to support the Greater Ogden community’s vision to be recognized as an outdoor recreation mecca by producing unparalleled athletic events and by collaborating with other organizations in bringing athletically oriented events to the Ogden area.

GOAL will, in all its activities, strive to engage the community, local business and relevant government agencies in outcomes that bring a sense of pride and belonging to all those involved." In either case, I’d say their new lottery registration system misses the mark for Weber County residents as far as "enhancing community spirit" and striving to engage the community..."in outcomes that bring a sense of pride and belonging to all those involved."

As a non-profit that’s received a portion of its operating income from local taxpayer-generated funds, thousands of hours of volunteer support from Weber County locals, and that relies on local taxpayer supported roads, parks and other municipal services for the Ogden Marathon, I strongly feel that GOAL Foundation should reconsider its lottery registration procedures and amend them to allow guaranteed entries for Weber County residents.

Keicha Christiansen lives in Ogden.

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