How to Find (and Secure!) a Cornhole Venue

The search for a venue where you can run a league, weekly blind draw or tournament can be arduous, but we’re here to help. We talked to Greg Barr who runs Silicon Valley Cornhole and Jeff Chimienti of Pacific Coast Cornhole, both in California, and Tony Cevik from Marshall Cornhole Crew in Texas to create this guide to finding and securing a good venue for cornhole league or tournaments.

Step 1: Keep Your “Cornhole Eyes” Peeled

The search for a venue where you can run a league, weekly blind draw or tourmanet can be arduous, but we’re here to help.

  • Floor space: Each court requires about 40′ of length (including a couple feel behind each boards so people can walk to their court without interrupting games) and 8′ of width so everybody has their 3′ pitchers box without waiting for the other guy to throw. For four courts you’re talking about just shy of 1,300 square feet, for 8 you need over 2,500, and a dozen will take up 3,840 square feet. And remember, that’s just for your courts — on top of that you need space for fols to mill around and socialize.
  • Ceiling Height: Most sanctioned tournaments require at least 12 feet, most avid baggers prefer a bit more than that, even. You can tell a seasoned tournament directory because whenever they walk into a big space (ANY time, not just when they’re evaluating venues, lol) they look up to see what kinds of lights, HVAC pipes, sprinklers or other such stuff that can render an otherwise awesome space useless for cornhole.
  • Commercial Viability: Those requirements narrow things down quite a bit, but once you find such a place you run into the almighty dollar. Somebody in your community have a barn that fits the bill, but most such spaces are found in:
    • Bars, restaurants and microbreweries
    • Bowling alleys, minigolf courses, and family fun centers
    • Hotel ballrooms and convention centers

All those folks are in business to make money, and your goal is to run the best tournaments you can for as little money as you can. So what to do? We got you!

Step 2: Make Your Case for Free Space

Running cornhole leagues and tournaments is not a “get rich quick” scheme. You can make it worth your while (or at least offset expenses) by taking a ~20% cut of each week’s kitty, selling apparel and other swag, securing sponsorships, etc., but you don’t want to be spending big money on your venue. And there’s good news — you usually don’t have to!

Think About What Venues Want

First, your target contact is the general manager, or at least “manager on duty,” owner, etc. With managers/owners in mind, let’s look at the three fundamental factors that make it rather easy to pitch yourself as a something they want in their venue:

  1. Think about how they make money. They may draw people in and cover some costs with cover charges, course fees, lane rentals, and room rates, but they make their real money selling food, and even moreso booooooze. As part of that, fast turnover wastes minutes/money. People just popping in for a bite eat/drink during the middle part of their visit, but it takes them time to get settled, and do shoot the shit after their meal.
  2. Think about when they make money: Most places make their money on Fridays and Saturday nights — maybe with solid Thursdays or Sundays — and suffer through empty tables, lightly-tipped staff and meager margins during the week. Another more abstract downside of slow nights is they tend to stay slow: “You kidding, nobody goes there on Tuesdays, it’s dead!”
  3. Think about how predictable/steady their business is: The only thing GM’s hate more than slow nights is “No idea of what’s coming” nights. Unpredictable traffic makes it hard to be efficient with their inventory of perishables (food and beverage), to schedule enough staff without leaving some standing around, and generally has them praying for surprisingly big nights to balance out equality mysterious dead ones.
  4. Think about what all they can use their space for: We kinda played up the difficulty of finding a place with floor space and high ceilings earlier, but actually have it pretty easy — lots of bar and recreational sports sports require very specific equipment (shuffleboard) or flooring (pickleball), or space well beyond the court itself for running down balls (again pickleball), or vertical surfaces on which you can mount targets for darts…or axes. We can skooch some tables and chairs over, plop down some boards and start throwing soft, safe beanbags that don’t roll across the floor, then put it back when we’re done in ten minutes flat. Net-net, there aren’t many other sports that slot into big spaces (with high ceilings) as well as cornhole.

What You Have to Offer

With all that in mind, here’s how you make their eyes light up. Say it with me:

  1. “I represent dozens of adults who drink and eat a lot.”
  2. “They’ll show up any night of the week I tell them I am running cornhole.”
  3. “They’ll show up at exactly the same time every week, and stay for ~3 hours.”
  4. “We will bring, set up and remove all of the equipment we need.
  5. “We will be adding fun energy to your space, which will attract and retain other patrons.”
  6. “We’re super chill and love introducing new people to the game, so we will absolutely grow our scene by giving them a reason to come back every week for three hours.

“Trust me, agreeing to host our cornhole league every Wednesday will be worth way more to your business’s bottom line and reputation than whatever else you can use that space for, including renting it out for a birthday party every third week.”

Step 3: Closing the Deal

We know that when money is on the line — and that’s exactly what their space represents to them — all of that is easier said than done. The biggest deterrent for a business is fear of the unknown, and you are asking them to trust you as a business partner, not a customer looking to rent space for a single birthday party. So look the part, and act it. Here’s a few tips:

  1. Invest in looking professional: Sport a golf shirt with your logo on it, make some business cards with your name, title and logo.
  2. Make a Compelling Pitch: Produce a brochure you can hand to all prospective venues, or at least have pictures of successful events. And if you really have your eye on a place, make a flyer with their logo on it that they could put up behind their bar right now.
  3. Share some info about your footprint, in the real world and online. Tell them how many fans or members your Facebook page has. Make sure they know your club and events are featured in the world’s #1 cornhole search engine. (hint hint…)
  4. Ask for a Chance! With your case made, it’s time to ask for what you want, which is a chance. Try this:
    “Can we do a trial run next Wednesday so you can see what we bring to the table, and what kinda bar tab we rack up, then talk about whether or not it’s something you want to do?”

If your pitch was good and the stars align maybe they’ll be willing to sign up to host you for the foreseeable future right away, but offering a trial reduces their risk and anxiety.

Step 4: Be their Favorite Partner

If you’re successful, and they agree to at least see if you might represent the best decision they’ve made for their business in a long time, congratulations. How do you turn that trial into a long-term arrangement, and keep it that way?

You repay that person for the favor by honoring the hell out of your agreement by meeting every commitment you made, and making sure all of your players and guests meet every expectation as well.

  • Be gracious and appreciative: Make sure your people know exactly who made the decision to give you a shot, and say thanks, maybe chat them up. And don’t forget his staff! Bartenders, waitstaff, busboys — make them all love you.
  • If they say no BYOB, make it so. Let your people know you have to have a zero tolerance policy and will, without a second chance, boot anybody who breaks that rule. Your bar tab is basically how you’re paying for the place, and people bringing their own booze puts their liquor license in jeopardy.
  • Be a good boy or girl scout and leave the place cleaner and more well organized than when you found it.
  • Make sure your crowd is on their best behavior — energetic but not overly loud, availing themselves of the food and beverage but not getting hammered, engaging with and welcoming other patrons as appropriate and possible.

After you’ve cleaned up after the event you made a success, and again the day after, ask them for feedback while proactively addressing any incidents or concerns you think of on your own. If they decide to pass, remain gracious. Don’t burn bridges, because they may realize down the line that the relationship was beneficial and ask you to come back. If they decide to become the Tuesday night host of Your Amazing Cornhole League, congratulations!!!

 

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