Special events bring both energy and business to Lawrence’s downtown, but there’s a limit to how much expense the city should bear to support such events — especially when they are staged by for-profit entities.
That’s why city officials are completely justified in collecting a pre-event deposit from the organizers of the Color Run, planned for Sept. 14. City commissioner will consider tonight whether to require a $20,000 deposit to make sure the city can recoup its costs for cleanup and police monitoring of the event, which will begin and end in Watson Park looping on Kentucky and Tennessee streets to 18th Street and back.
The Color Run drew about 7,000 participants last year, which is great for downtown Lawrence. However, it also created significant expense for the city. The whole concept of the run is a little messy; participants dress in white and are showered with multi-colored cornstarch as they run. According to city officials the cleanup efforts for the 2012 event “could have gone a little better,” not to mention the expense of having Lawrence police officers posted at intersections along the route to enforce the street closings on Kentucky and Tennessee.
The Color Run is a for-profit enterprise and, although it makes a donation to a local charity as part of the event, there is no reason for the city to subsidize the run in this way.
This year’s agreement calls for the Color Run to provide volunteers to help with traffic control and properly clean the streets after the event is over. If the run organizers live up to their part of the bargain, their $20,000 deposit will be refunded. If not, the city will be able to keep enough of the deposit to cover its costs.
The item on tonight’s agenda covers only the Color Run, but it should set a precedent for other times when the city is dealing with for-profit enterprises that want to bring their events to downtown Lawrence. The Color Run apparently is a popular event, but if its organizers are making a profit, the city should make sure it is at least covering its costs for being willing to host the event.