The Sports Backers announced the prize payouts for Dominion Riverrock recently. Last year, competitors in events like mountain biking, bouldering, trail running, kayaking and more took home $18,150 in cash prizes. This year that number will be $29,300, a very sizable increase. To choose a few at random: prize money was doubled in bouldering, the Urban Assault MTB race and kayak boatercross.
I spoke recently with Jackie Holt, the Sports Backers’ PR manager, about the investment in prize money the group is making. She said part of the motivation is to try to attract the best possible athletes in these events. “We have always (and will always) want Dominion Riverrock to be a spectator-friendly event that draws top-tier athletes,” she said in an email. “Being able to come down to the festival and watch [competitors like] Eric Jackson, a world-class athlete, compete in the kayaking events is very cool – for both individuals and for the city of Richmond.”
However, prize money isn’t the only thing that brings the athletes in, she said. A big part — maybe bigger than the money — of drawing the best athletes to Riverrock involves working with the sponsors that keep those athletes in business. “In increasing the prize money,” Holt wrote, “we are ultimately trying to build credibility in the outdoor sports industry. It’s important that we work through our sponsors to draw their athletes in because there are very strong ties between athletes and the products they use. If we can build the event for everyone’s benefit – sponsors (for product visibility), athletes (opportunity to win money), and Dominion Riverrock (credibility in the outdoor sports industry), then everyone is happy.”
The upshot, for the 30,000 or so Central Virginians who’ll go down to Brown’s Island for Riverrock this May is that they’ll get to watch, and in some cases compete against, a bumper crop of elite athletes in many different sports. And, if you’re good enough, maybe you’ll take home some cash, too.