Thursday, July 28, 2016

Update on The Woodlands Township Board of Directors Meeting, July 27, 2016

I attended The Woodlands Township Board of Directors Meeting last evening, even though I learned via a Facebook comment from Director Mike Bass on a post by Barry Blanton that the public hearing involving the Special Events Policy had been moved to the Evening meeting in August.

That means it will be discussed on Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 6 p.m.

The only item on the agenda was the approval of the Host Value Sponsorship Agreement between The Township and The Woodlands Marathon Management, LLC.

Let me restate that I have no skin in this game as I am a resident of unincorporated Harris County, specifically, a Spring, Texas postal address.

The only service that I currently provide for any event that is put on in The Woodlands Township is that I serve as the race announcer for the Muddy Trails 5K, 10K, 5K-9 and Kids Fun Run and the CB&I Tri The Woodlands Triathlon, both produced by the Parks and Recreation Department of The Township.

Upon starting to run, for those who don't know my past, I got involved in reporting on road races and triathlons first through my "Houston Running" blog and later in avenues such as Texas Runner and Triathlete (then Inside Texas Running and Runner Triathlete News) and the Conroe Courier.

The latter came about when asked by publisher Jim Fredricks to write a weekly running and triathlon column.

I did so for about five years and stopped about the time that Jim left The Courier.

Back to last evening:  Having read the agenda and the Board packet posted Friday evening, I figured - given how the Sponsorship Agreement had been changed - that its approval would be a formality.  However, I wanted to see the discussion of the Board members to get a sense of what to expect next month with the Special Events Policy.

The Township's Assistant General Manager, Community Services John Powers presented the agenda item to the Directors.

John gave some general history for context and stated that basically it was a three-year agreement with two one-year renewal provisions, The Township would have the ability to approve the course (where Montgomery County Precinct 3 did so in the past) and that a donation to the Parks and Recreation department was removed.

There was minor discussion on the matter with Director Bass clarifying that even though the agreement gives The Township approval authority on the course that it wouldn't go into effect until The Township and Montgomery County Precinct 3 formalize their agreement to allow The Township to approve courses for races.

Montgomery County Precinct 3 would still approve traffic control plans, which are produced by a certified roadway design or traffic engineer.

Director Bass made a motion to approve the agreement.  Director John McMullan seconded the motion.

The Woodlands Marathon Management, LLC did not have anyone in attendance for the meeting.

So what changes?

Looking at the executed Host Venue Sponsorship Agreement from September 2011 and the proposed Agreement for approval, the changes are minor.

After the first five-year agreement expired, The Woodlands Marathon Management, LLC asked for a 10-year agreement.  However, the term approved is for three years and "may be renewed for up to two additional one (1) year periods ..."

The dates for the next three years are set:  March 4, 2017, March 3, 2018 and March 2, 2019.

As noted above, The Township will "have final approval of the Event race routes and schedules, upon county-approved traffic control plans for each of the Event races, as well as the Woodlands Development Company, L.P.'s ("TWDC") approval for any Event use of the Woodlands Waterway."

Exhibit B in both agreements spells out the responsibilities of The Township.

The parks and venues to be provided were listed in the original agreement, but are noted as "to be later specified".

The most significant change is that The Township will provide "value, by in-kind usage of electronic message boards to notify residents of potential lane or road closures."

Exhibit C lists the responsibilities of The Woodlands Marathon Management, LLC.

A new item is that the Marathon "will remove all traffic control devices and related signage within 24 hours of the Event.  Failure to do so will results in The Township's removal of such signage and Event-related traffic control devices, at The Marathon's expense."

The Marathon adjusted its stated influx of "athletes, media, staff, VIPs and spectators" from 4,000 to 25,000.  (Even with 8,000 participants, 25,000 is a reach.  You're taking the position that every single participant will bring three people with them to cheer them on.  There's no penalty if this isn't met or achieved, nor is there a way to accurately measure it - unless every single participant responds to the post-race survey.)

The Marathon increases its guarantee of "hotel room nights related to the event with hotels within The Woodlands" from 150 to 400.

The Marathon reduces its contracted donations from $40,000 to $25,000 and eliminates the $1,000 give to the Parks and Recreation Department.  The race previously agreed to give $20,000 in donations to not-for-profit organization and $20,000 in donations for local and regional volunteer organizations and groups.  It is now $25,000 for both of the groups combined, resulting in a $15,000 per year gain by The Woodlands Marathon Management, LLC (if the numbers required by groups or conditions to trigger these donations weren't reached.)

The Marathon also agreed to limit the maximum number of participants for each Event, but the race numbers are all listed as TBD, for the moment.

The Marathon also agrees to providing The Township with an Economic Impact Study at the conclusion of the 2017 and 2019 events.

The agreement is a win-win for the event (as it can plan long-term, particularly from a sponsorship standpoint), The Township (as they can continue to use it in their marketing with the race being part of a complete, well-rounded community) and the residents.

Why the residents?  Because there's no excuse for them not to know when the event is.

It will be interesting to see if these dates conflict with the SAT that is held at The Woodlands High School or if the marathon next year (and in future years) will adjust its route to ensure there isn't the conflict that potentially occurred this year with students that would have been arriving at a time where a continuous stream of runners would block the entrance to the high school as they ran north in the eastbound lanes on Research Forest.  (As you'll remember, the SAT cancelled the test on Friday - a day before the exam - when the marathon wouldn't adjust its course.)

Beyond that, I had a good conversation with Parks and Recreation Director Chris Nunes about the Special Events Policy that will be discussed at the next month's Evening Board meeting.

I lobbied for some communication methods to be employed to keep residents in the loop of all events and their traffic impacts, specifically what the City of Houston uses.  Chris shared that there may be an electronic opportunity that's being explored and developed to make that type of information (such as road closures due to events and/or races) - and much, much more - to residents.

I also inquired about the future dates for CB&I, given that we now know that Ironman Texas will remain in The Woodlands.  I asked this in the frame of reference that the Board has expressed a desire for races to be spaced four weeks apart in a specific village, plus that the Kemah Triathlon is shifting from April to October in 2017.

More on those likely next month.

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