Marion fans paid a little more Friday to watch the Warriors dismantle Moundridge; ticket prices were a buck higher than last year for adults and students.
Fans can thank other Heart of America League schools for the price hike.
Marion was the only HOA school to vote against an increase this past spring, USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker said.
“We voted against it because we’re trying our best to protect our patrons,” Leiker said. “We want our parents and patrons to be at our events.”
All county high schools belong to activities leagues, and leagues, not individual schools, decide what to charge for admission.
Bumping varsity high school sports admission to $5 for adults and $4 for students brought Marion in line with Central Kansas League member Hillsboro, which has been charging those prices for several years.
Centre, Peabody-Burns, and Goessel are members of the Wheat State League, which set admission prices for adults and children at $4 and $3, respectively, about six years ago.
However, schools aren’t fleecing their athletic budgets with ticket sales. What comes in at the gate mostly goes out in the pockets of game officials and referees.
“That’s the biggest expense,” Goessel Junior/Senior High School principal Scott Boden said. “It’s really a challenge for us to even cover the cost of the officials.”
Peabody-Burns athletic director Ray Savage agreed.
“You’re hoping your revenue is going to cover those officials,” he said. “Sometimes that doesn’t happen and we go in the hole on a given night. On my good nights I make enough to cover the bad nights.”
Officials’ pay is set by leagues, too. Goessel paid $70 each for officials for Friday’s home game against Peabody-Burns, while referees who worked the Marion game got $75. Marion High School principal Tod Gordon said some leagues will pay mileage as well, as they compete to get the services of the best officials they can.
Games also require gate workers, chain gangs, scorekeepers, line judges, announcers, and clock operators. Schools pay from $7.50 to $10 an hour for help, but all have found ways to use volunteers to defray costs.
Peabody-Burns has eight volunteers in the booth and on the sideline that, with just two exceptions, have been at for all of Savage’s 24 years as athletic director, he said.
Marion gives staff an incentive to volunteer by offering family passes to games; to get them, a staff member has to volunteer to work three events.
Leagues lock schools into ticket prices, but there’s some flexibility when it comes to who pays what.
High school students typically don’t pay to go to home high school events, and districts vary on extending that break to other students.
Peabody-Burns has junior high and high school students in one building, so they all get in free, Savage said.
All Goessel students can avoid paying admission by joining the “Blue Crew,” Boden said. All it takes is a T-shirt purchase.
“It makes it a little more affordable for families who otherwise might not come to games,” Boden said. “We were kind of concerned at first if it would hurt our revenue, but it really has not.”
Even though they still pay to get in, many parents buy shirts just to join in, Boden said.
Marion ended senior discounts several years ago, but Centre district patrons 65 and over still get in free. Goessel seniors pay $1.
Seasons with five home games, good weather, and a game on the eve of Old Settlers’ Day are the best for providing Marion with surplus gate receipts, Gordon said.
Extra money goes to supplement entry fees required for activities such as debate, forensics, and music competitions, as well as for sports tournaments and meets, he said.
“In the end, we’re hoping when we get down to May that the money we have in the athletic account is enough to finish out the year,” Gordon said.