Putting on a high school football game is something a school does five or six times a year - maybe seven, if their team makes the playoffs - and given that it’s typically the biggest sporting event of any a school hosts, it’s fair to say it’s rarely a simple affair.
For Suburbanite-area schools, the size of a football game runs the gamut, from Jackson (Division I) to Green and Lake Division II, all the way down to Mogadore in Division VI.
So what does it cost to put on a game, to have all of the Friday night lights turned on and to put on a show for the community as they turn out to cheer on the home team? The Suburbanite gathered data from several local schools to get an idea of what the total bill is for an average Friday night.
The expenses for a high school football game break down into several general categories: police/security, power, officials, event staff and the field itself.
"Football is definitely our biggest," Coventry athletic director Danny Savage said. "You need the most people and staff and have the most fans."
Savage estimated the cost for a typical Coventry home game to be around $1,600 or so. Of that amount, $325 is a cost that is uniform across local schools, as it’s the total pay for the officiating crew that works each game.
Another $640 at Coventry is for police to work the game, with multiple officers around the stadium patrolling and dealing with any issues that may arise within the gates or outside in the parking lot.
Savage noted that various event workers receive a total of $225 per game, a number similar to the one Springfield athletic director Kevin Vaughn cited for his school’s home games. Vaughn, who served as the football coach for the past decade, noted that volunteers play a part in helping put on games as well.
"Our total for a game is about $1,992, which includes four ticket sellers and three ticket takers at $25 each, a clock operator and announcer, also at $25 each, and a spotter who is a volunteer," Vaughn said.
Like many local schools, Springfield leans on a chain crew comprised of volunteers. Some area schools also have volunteer announcers, further helping keep costs down. Summa Sports Health provides trainers who are on the sidelines for games, making it one cost schools don’t have to handle.
Figuring out some costs for games requires a bit more math, as maintenance workers and athletic staffers are typically salaried positions, making the hours spent at games part of their normal work schedules.
Booster clubs also play a role in the cost of games, as they are often the ones running the concession stands or selling 50/50 raffle tickets. Sometimes, it’s the band boosters filling these roles, other times the athletic boosters are the ones selling hot dogs and popcorn. Either way, the money raised pays for some of the costs that arise in or through games.
"We have our football parents group that does team meals, shirts and banners and our band boosters do a lot of work too," Savage said.
Vaughn, who pointed to his district’s general all-sports booster club as a source of consistent support for all programs, said events such as a bingo night and other special events bolster boosters’ coffers and allow them to meet the needs of various teams.
Both Savage and Vaughn said the football programs at their schools tend to be on a four-year rotation with uniforms, meaning that taking care of jerseys is also important.
"We have a four-year rotation with school-purchased uniforms, but if the team wants to fundraise they can and our team usually uses that money for an alternate jersey," Savage said.
Alternate jerseys in high school will almost certainly never reach the level of the dozens-of-color-combinations uniform stash of college teams like Oregon or the NFL’s "Color Rush" alternate uniforms, but having a special alternate jersey for a big game is one way teams can highlight an important contest. Another way Springfield tries to mitigate uniform costs is to wear its home or road jerseys an extra year if they are in good shape, meaning that the district may not have to replace both sets of uniforms in a given year.
With the cost for putting on a game, the next logical step is determining how much money comes in from one. According to figures provided by Coventry’s athletic department, the average income for a home game is about $5,000, while Springfield puts its revenue at about $4,569 per game.
"It goes into the athletic fund, which helps us fund our other sports programs," Savage said.
Coventry also charges a pay-to-participate fee of $100 per sport at the high school level. The middle school fee is $75 per sport and Savage noted that in comparing those fees to other local districts, he has seen Coventry’s fees rank at the lower end of the spectrum. Springfield had pay-to-participate fees in the past, but does not currently have them.
"We’d had them (fees) since I’ve been here, so at least 10 years ago. It doesn’t seem like it’s a huge impact on participation and we try to work with families in need, whether we set up a payment plan or sometimes money is donated from the community," Savage said.
Basketball is typically the next closest to football in terms of costs, while sports such as golf or baseball don’t cost as much to host events.
"Basketball is less because even though you still have a clock operator, you have fewer ticket takers and sellers … you need half as many for football and the officials, for varsity basketball you only need three and the JV officials are cheaper," Vaughn said.
The net impact for football, regardless of the size of the school in the Suburbanite area, is profitable, a dynamic that mirrors what is typically the case on the college level, where football is often the bigger money maker among sports. The overall impact of games on community spirit and in other areas is tougher to measure, but as the current season winds down, football remains a big part of towns and cities throughout the area.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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