Sunday, September 11, 2011

Move to the Middle or Rove? Part II

You’ve all heard the old saw – There are lies, damn lies and statistics: the geographic center of the lower 48 states is just outside of Lebanon, Kansas, 158 miles NW of Topeka. The demographic center of the US for the ABC membership is Valmeyer, Illinois, which is 375 miles west of the current ABC show site in Ft Mitchell, KY and 265 miles west of Indianapolis, IN, to which the ABC will probably move in 2013. The Wyndham Hotel West in Indianapolis looks to be eminently suitable as an ABC show site, but even if you believe membership demographics should be the determiner of the “center,” it’s still nearly 300 miles east of the demographic center. (See the summer 2011 issue of the ABC Bulletin for the Demographics and Show Site Committee reports.)

So 13 years after the ABC membership voted 2 to 1 to move to the center of the country, we’re still not there – by any definition – and that situation has created a lot of bitterness on the part of a large portion of the membership, and defensiveness on the part of another large portion.  I should know: I just got into a huge argument with a very dear friend who holds an opposing viewpoint on this subject, and I should have known better. It’s gotten to the point where moving the ABC has joined politics and religion as subjects that one simply does not bring up among friends who are of a different opinion, one way or the other.

And I’ve got to tell you, it’s really hard for me to summon up a lot of enthusiasm for a brand new battle when the first battle hasn’t been won yet. I’m sure the same arguments that have been used against a move to the middle for the last 13 years will be used against the idea of a roving national, even if roving is an idea whose time has come. And in the meantime, the ABC is still stuck with a list of show site criteria that was set in cement long before the center-of-the-country vote. FYI, the following information appears on the Boxer Nationals Venue Concerns Facebook page, thanks to Cheryl Robbins, a member of the ABC Showsite Committee.

·         Location – Must be in the geographic center of the country or reasonably close.
·         Airport Accessibility – Must be within one hour or less from an airport serviced by one or more of the major airlines. 
·         Shuttle Service – between the hotel and airport must be available including for those travelling with dogs in crates. Hotel should be located adjacent to an Interstate hwy. 
·         Availability – Must be available the first full week in May – Saturday thru Friday.
·         Hotel Criteria – Minimum of 250 rooms available and must accept dogs in rooms.
·         Cost preferably in range of $80 - $100 per room night.
·         Parking – Need space for 70 to 80 RV’s (ABC provides electric, waste pick up, etc). Need space for vans and X-Pens.
·         Dining – Must have at least a full service restaurant and snack bar available – preferably 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
·         Show Room – should be at least 12,000 sq. ft., able to accommodate a show ring (min. width 70 ft.) with room for at least 3 rows of chairs on three sides. (Chairs provided by hotel.) Show room must be air conditioned and well lit.
·         Agility – Need an Indoor Dog Training Facility adjacent or close to Show Site.
·         Banquet – Need space for 500 people.

That’s a formidable list of requirements, and I included only the “drop dead” essential ones. There are many, many more listed on the FB page and in the summer 2011 Bulletin. It’s obvious that these criteria were designed to fit a large, self-contained hotel near a major airport, rather than just a suitable show site. If ABC members were willing to compromise on just one requirement – having a hotel directly adjacent to the show site – Purina Farms in St Louis, MO would be an ideal venue in every other way. But as it stands right now, those are the onerous requirements the Show Site Committee has had to work around in trying to find us a centrally located show site.

Is having it all in one location an outdated concept? Do other large clubs successfully hold their national specialties at venues like Purina Farms?  Is Purina Farms affordable for breed clubs only because it’s subsidized by Purina? I don’t know, but you’ve got to wonder how we’ll be able to find 3 or more sites for a roving specialty in different areas of the country when, based on those show site criteria, we haven’t been able to find even one central location in 13 years. On the other hand, maybe I’m being too negative. I do believe a roving national could work, if for no other reason than that the Futurity and Top 20 will rove along with the specialty, and for many breeders and owners, the Futurity is the most important part of the ABC show – an annual event we’ve been planning for and looking forward to in some cases for almost two years with our latest young hopefuls. And despite my reservations, I have come up with a few ideas for a roving ABC National Specialty. Please check them out below (and consider offering your own ideas in the comments section or in a guest blog).    

K.I.S.S. – A Roving ABC

IMO, we need to keep this new system as simple as possible, at least in the beginning. My "vision" for an ABC roving specialty would be a site in the east, a site in the middle of the country, and a site in the far west -- CA, NV, etc – then back to the east. That way, one year out of 3, the ABC would be reasonably close for everyone in that area; and one year out of 3, it would be a long trek for many people, but still doable in the same way that Ft Mitchell is doable now. Only when it was on the opposite coast – east or west –  would it be a big problem for attendees on the other coast who wanted to bring their dogs to the show. Right now, it's a big problem for the westerners every single year, and it's going to get worse. Just go to and checkout these airline pet policies. (At least one airline charges $275 each way for a dog carried as excess baggage! Some won’t carry dogs at all.)

Next, I think the ABC should be responsible for planning and putting on our National Specialty, no matter where it’s held. The show chair and committee chairs might need to change from location to location, but the buck should stop at the ABC, just as it always has. Think of it this way: the Bluegrass BC doesn't host the current annual specialty, the ABC does. And when we move to Indianapolis in 2013, the Central Indiana BC won't host the show, either. No local club, or group of clubs, has the resources and the income that the ABC has. And no local club has the numbers of workers needed to put on a national specialty. That's why the Regional clusters are often in the hole, financially, after they've hosted a week of Regional shows.  I know of member clubs that are still bitterly divided over Regional shows they hosted years ago.

Furthermore, the workers/committees for the ABC show at the current site aren't drawn just from Kentucky: the show chair lives in Florida; the asst show chair lives in Nevada; the obedience/rally chair lives in Maryland; the agility chair lives in Tennessee; the Futurity chair lives in Michigan. The obedience and breed stewards come from all over the country, and so do the other workers/committee members that contribute to making the show a success. In fact, I think the awards dinner chair is the only one who actually does live in Kentucky.

Other breeds may be able to draw support from a group of strong local member clubs that are as capable of running their national specialty as their parent club is, but I don’t believe that’s the case with boxers. If the ABC leadership tries to make local clubs responsible for coordinating our national specialty, I’ll bet the rent that the experiment will be doomed to failure right off the bat. The ABC members and member club members who are reading this need to think about how they want their elected representatives to act on issues like this one when they cast their ballots for a new ABC Board early next year…and every year.    

Finally, because it makes my head hurt to think of all the changes that would need to be made to switch to a roving national system, I’m going to leave that to Jennifer Walker in the next installment of this series. Take it away, Jen!

Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. - Sydney J. Harris, journalist and author (1917-1986) 

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