Hot dog or game ticket? You decide

By Karl Henkel

Average price for a Cleveland Browns ticket? $55.

How about the Pittsburgh Steelers? $74.

Any high school football team in the Mahoning Valley? $6.

Or, to put that in context, slightly more than a hot dog at an NFL game.

Pro-football ticket prices have climbed nearly 30 percent during the past five years, according to a 2010 survey by Team Marketing Report.

But one ticket price remains relatively unchanged — high-school football tickets.

In fact, in a five-year span from 2005 to 2009, the average NFL ticket increased $15 — a $5 hike per season.

High-school football tickets, said Clem Zumpella, commissioner of the All-American Conference, which consists of 15 Mahoning Valley schools, have increased three times in the past three decades.

Zumpella remembers the 1980s, when tickets increased from $3 to $4, and ticket attendants had to worry about having enough singles to last the night.

The last increase for AAC schools like Canfield, Niles, Poland, Struthers and Girard happened three years ago. AAC schools now charge a standard $6 fee for nonstudent football tickets.

“When the prices were cheaper, it was a different time,” Zumpella said. “If anything, we probably aren’t charging what we need to be comfortable.”

Football, the most popular high-school sport in the Valley, is responsible for a large portion of each school’s athletic revenues. At Canfield, Greg Cooper, athletic director at Canfield, says football ticket sales make up nearly half the athletic department’s $90,000 total revenue.

“Football, in almost every school, is driving the bus,” Zumpella said. “And you can only be in the red so many years before the school asks for cuts.”

With 3,000 to 4,000 fans attending each game at Canfield, the numbers add up quickly.

They’re just as quickly taken away when a school factors in the cost of officials (six per game at $58 each), announcers and other game assistance.

What’s the school left with? Maybe a thousand or so dollars for necessary equipment upgrades and not much more.

Cooper said despite stagnant revenue levels at times of increasing costs, keeping ticket levels at affordable rates is important to the overall financial health of high school athletic departments.

“Even though we’ve had increased costs, we don’t want to price our selves out of competition,” Cooper said. “We don’t want to suffer the same price inflation that’s happened at the college level and pro level.”

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