October NAC Milwaukee Debrief for Parents - Security Lines and Flight Times
This article has been read 402 times since publication (updated Thursday, January 10, 2019)
The October NAC was the first get together of parents and fencers nationally for the 2018/2019 season. Most of us hadn’t seen each other since Summer Nationals in St Louis, 3 months earlier. There was a buzz in the air, and the excitement was palpable.
We were all there for a weekend of great fencing and camaraderie. And, in general, we had both in spades.
However, there were also concerns with the new ticketing policies and flight times to Milwaukee.
With the implementation of US Fencing’s new ticketing policy for the 2018/2019 season at the October NAC, most of us parents had opted to join US Fencing as Supporting Members for $25 a year per parent. That way, we would enjoy the free access accorded to members at US Fencing national tournaments for the year. US Fencing explained that the money collected from entrance fees and credentialed access would be used towards improving security measures at national tournaments, a very admirable goal indeed!
See the US Fencing announcement HERE
From a parents perspective, however, there were many questions and concerns relating to the new ticketing measures. Based on multiple conversations with parents in Milwaukee, the following are a list of issues raised (I am sure this list is not exhaustive, and parents are encouraged to voice their concerns or positive experience in the Comments section):
1) the guards stationed at the entrance, as part of the enhanced security measures, would have been no match for an armed assailant
2) the guards at the entrance were there to enforce the ticketing policy (and prevent freeloaders), not enhance safety
3) the ticketing policy is simply a fundraising tool, not a measure to enhance security
4) parents are being forced to pay up to accompany and support their minor children, this is neither right nor fair.
5) will US Fencing take responsibility for their minor children in the absence of parents?
It appears that few people felt safer with the new ticketing measures, just more irritated.
Fencers too reported that they were prevented from re-entering the venue despite being in full fencing gear. They had stepped out to the hallway between pools and DEs without their green strips, and were not allowed back into the venue by the guards.
The numerous exit doors at the venue, also served as entrances for people lucky enough to walk by as someone exited. Definitely a fail from a security perspective.
And the guards were apparently letting in people without green strips but were walking through with someone who did. Another security fail!
Perhaps, the biggest indicator that the new ticketing measures need better planning and implementation was the long check-in lines (pictured above) on Saturday morning, October 13. Apparently internet service in the venue was interrupted that morning, and fencers had to be manually checked-in and issued with their green access strips.
Coupled with long equipment check lines that morning, the Cadet Men’s Foil event scheduled for an 8am start, didn’t start till 9.15am that morning.
flight times to milwaukee
The long equipment check lines on Saturday morning highlight several different issues that need resolution.
While Milwaukee is a very charming town, access to Milwaukee from the West Coast is challenging. Southwest Airlines operates the only non-stop flight from California (Los Angeles International Airport) to Milwaukee of 3.5 hour duration, arriving at 10.15pm, definitely too late for equipment check. The rest of the flights to Milwaukee from Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego involve one stop and travel times ranging from 6.25 hours to 8 hours. This seems so crazy given that a coast to coast non-stop flight from LA to New York takes 5 hours and 20 minutes, and 6 hours in the reverse direction.
For California based fencers, the choice was between a red-eye departing around midnight, a very early morning flight departing at 6am, or a flight that used up all their daylight hours travelling. None of these choices were ideal. There was no way for many of them to get to Milwaukee in time for equipment check the day before without missing an extra day of school, a parent possibly missing an extra day of work, and incurring an extra night’s hotel charge. For many people, the airfares exceeded $400 per person and went as high as $550 or $600 per person.
24% of fencers in Cadet Men’s Foil came from California, and accounted for a large portion of fencers in the equipment check line on Saturday morning.
To accommodate fencers with flight connections that set them up for late arrival, US Fencing should extend equipment check times to 10pm nightly starting with the night before the 1st event. This is especially so when travel to a host city poses challenging flight connections/duration for fencers.
While New York area fencers had a choice of 9 non-stop flights (2.5 hour duration), and 31 flights with one stop, these still had travel times of between 4.5 hours to 6 hours. Airfares on average were about $100 cheaper per person.
Here are comparative numbers and percentages of California fencers and Greater New York (Tri-State) area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut fencers who competed in cadet events in Milwaukee:
Cadet Women’s Foil 46 fencers - 28% of field
Cadet Men’s Foil 50 fencers - 24% of field
Cadet Women’s Epee 16 fencers - 11% of field
Cadet Men’s Epee 17 fencers - 12% of field
Cadet Women’s Saber 23 fencers - 19% of field
Cadet Men’s Saber 19 fencers - 15% of field
total 171 fencers
% of all cadets(914) 19%
greater new york
Cadet Women’s Foil 39 fencers - 24% of field
Cadet Men’s Foil 48 fencers - 23% of field
Cadet Women’s Epee 30 fencers - 20% of field
Cadet Men’s Epee 25 fencers - 17% of field
Cadet Women’s Saber 30 fencers - 25% of field
Cadet Men’s Saber 25 fencers - 19.5% of field
TOtal 197 fencers
% of all cadets(914) 22%
For fencers from California, that’s a total of 171 cadet fencers affected by inconvenient flight schedules, but who generally still lived close to major airports in California. And we haven’t yet taken into account fencers from Oregon, Washington and Utah who also had limited non-stop options to fly to Milwaukee.
While New York area fencers had better flight options, they too flew a relatively long way to fence, albeit with better flight durations than fencers flying from California. Fencers up and down the East Coast experienced similar flight durations as those from New York, with fewer non-stop options.
Cadet fencers are high school students with heavy work loads. Challenging travel requirements with flights longer than 6 hours to national fencing tournaments adds to their stress, and costs their parents more money. Don’t forget that parents pick up the cost of airfare for their coaches as well. Few West Coast families are independently wealthy, everyone works for a living, and extra days out of work has a cost for parents.
hub city host city
US Fencing’s choice of host cities skews heavily in favor of mid-western cities in general, none of them hub cities. There are 5 NACs in the Mid-West for the 2018/2019 season, 3 in Ohio alone, one in Kansas City, MO and one in Milwaukee, WI, with Milwaukee being the hardest to access from the West Coast. Flights to Charlotte, NC are very expensive from the West Coast. Only Denver and Salt Lake City are hub cities with reasonable airfares for everyone and plenty of non-stop flights to and from.
Surely US Fencing can plan their host cities to better accommodate fencers from both coasts, and in particular West Coast fencers and their families, who have so far borne the brunt of inconvenience and costs of travel.
We would love to hear from parents about how you feel about out the current host city arrangement. What works, and what doesn’t. Perhaps the collective voice of parents addressing US Fencing in unison will be heard better than lone voices speaking out.
The argument for hub cities, or cities with high percentages of non-stop flights make the most sense for our student fencers who must juggle homework and fencing with limited time, and for parents who are footing the bill.
See Fencing Parents blog on Holding National Competitions in Hub Cities
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