Should spectators pay to attend a Powell High School athletic event?
The Powell school board considered that question during budget discussions last week, not reaching an answer.
School board member Kim Dillivan asked whether it would be worth looking into charging a minimal fee at games to help bring in revenue.
PHS Activities Director Tim Wormald said he has talked to the Cody school district about the idea. Based on what Cody has earned through ticket sales, he estimated Powell games could possibly bring in somewhere between $7,000-$10,000.
Across the state, some school districts charge for athletic events, while others don’t, he said.
“I don’t know if $10,000 is worth the feedback that we might get from the community, but we’ve definitely looked into that,” Wormald told the school board. “I think that is something to consider.”
There also would be logistical issues involved, such as manning the ticket booths.
“We wouldn’t get anyone to volunteer to do it, so we’d have to pay them,” said Kevin Mitchell, superintendent of Park County School District No. 1.
For games in the gym, the back door would have to be locked, or two tables would need to be set up for tickets, he said.
The Panther football stadium area isn’t as enclosed as Cody’s, so that also creates some issues, Wormald said.
School board chairman Greg Borcher brought up the possibility of charging students to participate in activities and athletics — such as $25 for choir or football. He said you could cap it at $50 per student per year, and charge less at the middle school level.
“Other schools do it, and it kind of gets buy-in,” Borcher said.
He said the Powell Athletic Roundtable could be approached for scholarships for kids whose families couldn’t afford the fees.
Wormald said the idea has been discussed, but he’s opposed to it now. He noted the importance of being involved in extracurricular activities, and how it can benefit students academically.
“I don’t think we want to put any inhibitors or limits on their participation,” Wormald said. “For most families, that wouldn’t be a problem, to pay a small fee, but I think we want to try to keep that open.”
PHS principal Jim Kuhn saw the headaches it created for schools in Kansas, where a participation fee sometimes created an expectation of equal playing time.
“It was amazing, the number of parents that would sit up in the stands with a stopwatch, actually, and time everybody that played,” he said.
Parents would complain if their child didn’t get as much playing time by 30 seconds or a minute, he said. Kuhn added that the fees also could be difficult for families with multiple children playing sports.
As for gate fees, he said the district would have to determine what sports to charge for, and whether fees would only apply to varsity games or all events.
Wormald said that personally, he’d rather charge a gate fee for spectators than an activity fee for students.
For his part, Mitchell said some schools in Wyoming have charged student athletes for years, and he hasn’t heard that it created an expectation of equal playing time in those districts.
“At some point, you’re going to cut an academic program to allow what you’re doing with athletics and activities today,” Mitchell said, adding that the athletics/activities budget includes meals, transportation, uniforms and other costs.
Borcher said increasing revenue through gate fees or student participation charges also would show the community that the district is facing budget cuts, and needs help voicing concerns to legislators.
“We make cuts inside our buildings, and our faculty and our personnel are the only ones that feel the pinch — the community doesn’t feel any pinch at all,” Borcher said. “If you start charging for stuff, saying we need that revenue, then the community starts feeling what, inside, the schools are feeling.”