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Parks and Recreation

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After some deliberation the Maricopa Parks, Recreation and Library Committee voted Aug. 23 to grant requests for fee waivers from organizations looking to host events at Copper Sky. 

“We have to draw the line on a lot of things that we don’t want to.” — PRL committee member Tommy Ronca


The approval to waive certain fees for both the Relay for Life event and a Maricopa High School Alumni football game came after much concern was voiced by members of the committee about the dependency organizations may develop on fee waivers and how the loss of those funds affects the city’s bottom line.  

Last year, the city waived around $2,500 in fees for Relay for Life, leaving about $500 in costs for the organization to foot.  

This year, members from the Relay for Life team requested a waiver for the remaining $500, citing services the money could provide to their members.  

“That $500 does not seem like a lot,” Trisha Paige with Relay for Life said. “But it could have paid for 50 patients to have gotten a ride to the doctor.” 

The organization was set to receive waivers proportionate to last year’s event, costs that had, in fact, been reduced significantly this year due to newly installed energy-efficient LED lighting in certain areas of Copper Sky.  

Despite the reduced costs, committee member Al Brandenburg expressed concern with the organization’s request. He, like most on the committee, has had his life impacted by cancer. However, he said, “we have to think with our heads not our hearts.”  

Though everyone on the committee wants to help whenever possible, Brandenburg said, those waivers are lost income for the city, which is already struggling with finances in certain areas, including Copper Sky. 

Committee member Tommy Ronca is one of two members of the committee personally affected by cancer. He agreed with Brandenburg.  

“We have to draw the line on a lot of things that we don’t want to,” Ronca said. “It hurts us; it hurts me.” 

Eventually the committee was able to tweak the expenses associated with the amphitheater and ramada rentals, bringing the waiver amount down to around $1,920 and cutting Relay for Life’s portion down to about $320.  

Maricopa High School Principal Renita Meyers and assistant principal Mallory Miller made the second fee-waiver request of the night. They sought waiver of the fees associated with the use of a field and parking lot at Copper Sky for the alumni football game Sept. 14 during MHS homecoming week.  

The amount of the requested waiver was $335, approximately $75 less than requested by MHS last year. 

The waiver was quickly granted as several members of the committee rejoiced in the fact that the MHS request was less than the previous year, a trend they hope to see with all organizations requesting fee waivers.  

After the vote of approval, the committee discussed possibly establishing a more rigid policy for waiver applicants, including the implementation of a graduated system that would lower the amount waived each year the organization applied for a waiver.  

The hope with this policy is that applicants will become more aggressive in finding outside sources of funds to help cover the cost of events.  

The committee also talked about vetting applicants, ensuring they are indeed a 501(c)(3) or similar organization and determining how much the event will actually impact Maricopa directly.  

The Maricopa Mud Run will have some changes this year, including more ziplines.

When fences went up around the dirt parcel on the west side of Copper Sky Regional Park, it was a sure sign of pending, dirty excitement.

If You Go
What: Maricopa Mud Run
When: Oct. 22, 9 a.m.
Where: Copper Sky Regional Park
How much: $40 adults; $20 ages 12-17; $15 ages 4-11
Info: Maricopa-az.gov/web/Mud-Run

Yards of mud, complicated obstacles and zombies will take over the place for the fourth annual Maricopa Mud Run on Oct. 22, starting at 9 a.m.

“We’ve been working on this probably since this March,” said Matthew Reiter, City of Maricopa fitness coordinator. “I start six to eight months early. But then throughout the whole year we have tons of discussion on the plan of this.”

Reiter attends five to 10 mud runs a year from other organizations and takes photos and brings those ideas to Parks Manager Mike Riggs. Together, they and their staff start creating and organizing Maricopa’s run.

“[Riggs] likes building these things, and I like running them,” Reiter said. Having the expertise to create the course and land on which to build it has been a matter of great timing for the city, he added.

The parks crew started building the course in mid-September and will continue as they also work on other city projects they are also responsible for.

Last year's competitors leap over obstacles in the "clean" part of the run.
Last year’s competitors leap over obstacles in the “clean” part of the run.

“There will be one or two of us that will stay pretty steady,” Riggs said. The work is dependent on what equipment is available in other departments.

Because it is a city event, they do not need to subcontract or hire a course designer for $20,000. The city crews build the obstacles and save them for future runs. Riggs said they want to get seven to 10 years out of them. They build a couple new obstacles each year.

They also incorporated feedback from last year’s participants. That has brought about more zip lines, a kids’ run and a beer tent.

“This year with the zip lines we’re going to put people in the mud, so there’s a surprise,” Reiter said. “Last year you could cross the mud and land on dry ground. This year, no matter what happens, you’re going in.”

Park Manager Mike Riggs (left) and fitness coordinator Matthew Reiter show off the belts awaiting winners of the 2016 Mud Run.
Park Manager Mike Riggs (left) and fitness coordinator Matthew Reiter show off the belts awaiting winners of the 2016 Mud Run.

The kids’ run is a mini-version for ages 4 to 11.

“If you’re out here watching them and you see the faces and the smiles and the high fives that are happening with the people actually participating, it’s just unbelievable,” Riggs said. “Everybody has a great time. That’s the joy I get out of it, just watching everyone have a great time.”

Organizers have used lanes already set up for overflow parking from other events to use as mud-run lanes. Each lane has two or three obstacles to climb over, swing over or run through.

The National Honor Society from Maricopa High School will again get zombie-fied to add an extra challenge. Runners can get two flag-football flags to wear during the run. If they make it through the zombies with both flags intact, they win a prize.

Celebrity trainers will be on hand to lead the pre-race warm-up. The first part of the race is on dry ground, starting near the skate park. Reiter said runners will probably be sent off incrementally every 10 minutes to ease the pileups that occurred at the early obstacles.

“We’re trying to make it as challenging as we can and still make a fun family experience,” Riggs said.

The course is two miles, which is considered the “sweet spot” for mud runs. Anything longer is too much, anything shorter is not enough. Old clothes and especially old shoes are recommended.

The event will also have log-rolling, a kids’ play zone and food vendors. Participants get a T-shirt and dog tags.

“It’s really like a casual city event that’s fitness. So for people who’ve never done a run or done an obstacle course, maybe their guard’s a little more down because it’s a city event,” Reiter said. “I would be more apt to get off the couch and try it because I wouldn’t have that fear that I’m going to go in there and get wrecked.”

Mayor Christian Price has again thrown down the challenge to beat his time. The first 50 runners to finish faster than the mayor will receive a Mayor’s Achievement Coin. But be warned, Price has been training all year.

The parcel used for the mud part of the mud run is actually marked for commercial development. When that happens, Riggs said they will find a new location for the mud run or a new way to construct it.

As much fun as runners seem to have participating in the Maricopa Mud Run, the crews that make it are just as happy.

“The staff is 80 or 90 percent local. The pride they take in it knowing they’ve done it, the accomplishment once it’s done, is a real builder for this team,” Riggs said. “We consider it one of the huge team-builders that we do in the Community Services Department because everyone gets out and helps.”

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.MUD-RUN2