Poland stadium adds to revenue

By Rick Rouan

The extra money will be reinvested in the school’s athletic department.

POLAND — The Poland schools’ athletic department brought in an extra $26,000 this year through its varsity football program as the district opened a newly renovated football stadium.

The department collected more than $88,000 through ticket and parking sales to varsity football games this season. Last year, the department collected about $61,500 with one more home game and without a paid parking lot, records show.

“The stadium is a factor in all of it,” said Brian Banfield, who is in his first year as the district’s athletic director.

This season was the first for the district’s upgraded football stadium, which cost $2.02 million. The stadium increased seating from about 3,400 to about 6,000, including 456 chair-back reserved seats, and with it came the addition of a 234-space parking lot.

Reserved seats cost $8, and pre-sold adult seats and student seats cost $6 and $4, respectively. All tickets purchased on game day cost $6 at the gate. Parking cost $5 per game.

The extra money will be reinvested in the school’s athletic department for new equipment and training aides for several of the district’s sports, Banfield said.

“A successful football season and basketball season help out the entire athletic program,” he said. “It all helps out when your two revenue sports are doing well and generating community interest.”

Banfield said that the stadium was a good draw in its first year and that visiting fans were enamored with it as much as Poland fans. But perhaps the bigger reason for the increase was the success of this year’s football team, which finished the season with an 8-2 record and a deep run into the Division III state playoffs.

“That’s a tribute to the community and support for athletics,” he said. “A big reason for the overwhelming success in football revenue is our football team.”

All told, the new stadium played host to five home games and two playoff games in 2009. In 2008, the team had one more home game and, some have said, better opponents to draw fans.

The new stadium “didn’t bring in any more revenue because of the games,” said Frank Divito, school board president.

Poland’s varsity football team started its home campaign against Thomas More Catholic High School, a team from Canada that did not bring a significant number of visiting fans. The Oct. 23 game against Beaver High School brought heavy rainfall, which kept some fans at bay, Banfield said.

“Three of our five home games this year, entering into the game, did not have a win,” Banfield said.

Overall in 2009, the district brought in more than $97,000 through gate receipts to football games, including varsity, junior varsity, freshman and middle-school games, according to athletic department records.

In 2008, the total revenue from all football gate receipts was more than $77,400, a significant jump from the previous year but still far short of the gate in 2009.

A small part of the shortfall could have been made up through junior varsity home games, for which the department recorded only one total gate receipt to the tune of $624 in 2008. In 2009, the department sold tickets to three junior varsity games for about $1,800, records show.

Somebody in the school district has to be accountable for that and other potentially lost revenue, Divito said.

Myron Stallsmith, who was athletic director during the last football season in the district’s old stadium, said that the new stadium and the way tickets are sold now account for most of the difference in revenue.

In 2008, the department sold season passes that were cheaper than buying each ticket individually, Stallsmith said.

Stallsmith said that he felt that fans should not have had to pay twice to see both junior varsity and varsity games, so the department did not charge for junior varsity games until league rules mandated it charge for admission.

“We didn’t feel it was fair to charge the same people again,” he said.

Elinor Zedaker, a school board member for about 18 years, said she is confident in the district’s administrators and that she hasn’t “had a reason to believe anything was wrong.”

The new stadium and parking, along with a successful football team, likely combined to spur ticket sales, Zedaker said.

But if anything was wrong, the board depends on the annual audit by the state to catch errors, Zedaker said.

Divito said that both administrators and the board should be accountable if any revenue was lost in the past.

“To a certain extent, we should be held accountable for not asking the right questions,” Divito said.

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