LIMA — COVID-19 has taken a toll on athletics department budgets at the region’s schools.
Crowds were drastically cut back on sporting events, and that affects the bottom line.
It also affected the ability to raise money from outside organizations, such as booster clubs that help buy uniforms, equipment and other things.
“Going back to spring, we weren’t able to do a lot of the fundraisers that we normally do. The reverse raffle was one of them, and there were a couple of others that we had to cancel,” said John Zell, athletics director for Lima schools. “We’re kind of in a deficit from the spring months, and that carries over to the fall with limited ticket sales for football. That didn’t help at all. Concessions struggled, so we still had to spend the money for equipment, especially for football. We still had to go and recondition all of the helmets. You’ve got to make sure everything’s safe.”
Heading into basketball season, Zell isn’t too optimistic about making much money.
“Looking forward to the winter season, again, a limited crowd is going to affect our ticket sales. I think right now we are sitting at 300 per game, as compared to having a sellout crowd of 2,200 people. This year was the year we had Ottawa-Glandorf at home, Shawnee at home and LCC at home. So those three games were big revenue games,” Zell said.
Crunching the numbers
Lima schools treasurer Shelly Reiff has been busy calculating how much money has been lost in the athletic department budget.
“If I compare this year’s football revenue to last year’s revenue, this year we only brought in $16,200, compared to about $41,000 last year. So that’s a big difference right there. But on top of that, for our athletic department, we did not have the Kewpee coupon sales this year because they did not have those last year, and that brought in right under $22,000. And last spring, we also were not allowed to have our reverse raffle. And that in the past has brought in around $25,000. So you take away those revenues, and that’s a major hit to our bottom line for athletics,” Reiff said.
Influx of donations helping Wapak
The short-term numbers at Wapakoneta schools were a little better.
“Obviously, we’re down from where we were last year,” said Brad Rex, athletic administrator for Wapakoneta schools. “Our (football) gate sales from 2019 to ‘20 is down nearly $43,000. So that takes a big hit on the budget. One of the things that we did that made it a little different from others is we built our new stadium this past summer. And with the uncertainty, we were unsure as to how many games we’re going to have or if we could fill it or not. And so we went ahead and sold our reserved seats. And once then we found out when we pretty much couldn’t use them, we sent a letter to our community and told them about the situation and gave them three options. Basically, we could refund their money, we could hold it till next year, or they could donate it and pay again next year. And our communities have been very, very good to us. And with that amount of money, we were able to stay a little bit more in the black this year than we would have had we not had that. We were fortunate to have nearly $13,000 in donations based on that money, and $33,000 of which they told us to keep till next year.”
But Rex voiced concerns for next year due to the fact they already have some of that money.
“Maybe around $20,000 based on reserved seats due to the fact we already have that money. So this is going to be a long-term effect on the athletic budget. We are down, as we sit today, down $17,000 from where we were last year at this time. A lot of that has to do with expenditures,” Rex said.
O-G seeks new revenue sources
Some schools, such as Ottawa-Glandorf, are using streaming to make up for fewer fans in the stands.
“We worked a partnership with WOSN, who was doing just phenomenal things for local high schools and trying to help support the schools as well as they can,” said Tyson McGlaughlin, athletic director for Ottawa-Glandorf schools. “In these times, it’s only an X amount of fans at a game, and that really limits the fan bases and our capacity, so we’re able to have those guys live stream, and we worked with our radio companies in our area, in our school district, to give us some audio on those days to try to make it the best production possible.”
O-G is charging $7 to watch the live stream of games.
McGlaughlin is expecting more limits on fans at basketball games, and streaming should help fans connect with the team.
“We have one of the strongest fan bases in the state of Ohio. So it’s something that’s going to significantly hamper us. In years past, we’ve done $50,000 worth of season ticket holders. We will not have season ticket sales this year due to only having been allowed to have 300 fans in attendance. So when you have 800 season ticket holders and you only have 300 total tickets, there’s going to be some financial implications because of that. Hopefully, we can get this live stream production working and try to accommodate as many people as possible,” McGlaughlin said.
Delphos Jefferson deals with declining revenue
The Delphos Jefferson football team traditionally has not drawn big crowds. Comparing this fall’s crowds to previous years, there’s not a lot of difference in the amount of money brought in from ticket sales.
“Our budget is not going to be cut as much as a lot of schools because we have not had real big crowds the last two years because if you win, people come, if you don’t, they don’t come as much,” said Kent Smelser, Delphos Jefferson schools athletic director.
But they do expect a financial loss.
“This is only comparing January of 19 to December of 19 and then January of 20 to where we’re at now, I would say we’re probably somewhere in the range of $50,000 to $60,000 (in losses). Now that’s also talking with Booster Club money coming in and things. With (the loss) of booster club money it could be as much as $70,000,” Smelser said.
Because of COVID-19, the annual Wildcat Special fundraiser was canceled. Last year that event brought in around just under $40,000.
Delphos Jefferson is one of the school districts where they implemented a “pay to participate” policy, where the athletes or the parents would help pay for the experience.
“We already have that for our athletes for the high school and middle school, but that is not an athletic income. It goes back to the school to help with the payments of the coaches’ salaries,” Smelser said.
Cutting back on sports?
None of the athletic directors would admit to seriously considering cutting out the less-than-profitable sports.
“Our first goal is to go out and fundraise and just try to figure out creative ways to raise revenue so that we will not have to cut our sports,” Zell said. “I know our athletic boosters, they’re doing a fundraiser for the winter season. But we’re going to really focus in on the spring, hopefully, we can get some type of normal where we’re able to do more.”
McGlaughlin added, “We haven’t gone down that path yet. It’s going to be tough for us; you’re not going to recover from this in one year. 2021 is going to be just kind of scratch and claw and do whatever we can to get by. But hopefully, this is something that we can look behind us and build for the future. We don’t have any intentions at this time to dismiss any programs or cut back. We’ve just got to be a little bit more strategic and hopefully find some ways to build some revenue by being creative and reaching out to our community and trying to raise some money in different manners.”
The same is true at Delphos Jefferson.
“That’s never been mentioned, at this point,” Smelser said. “We’re very limited in the number of sports we have right now. And I don’t want to look at cutting anything. At the end of this year, we’ll probably have sit down and have a real frank talk about where we stand.”
Ultimately, the goal is to maintain what you have, Wapakoneta’s Rex said.
“That would be the very last thing we would want to do,” Rex said. “We had some discussions with people asking if we should keep fewer people on our bowling teams and this and that in order to cut down on expenses, and absolutely not is our response to that. We want kids involved. We want them out there still trying to do normal things. I would say that would be the very last thing we would do is cut sports, we may have to look to be a little bit more creative. We’re looking at ways to reduce expenditures. So we have a four-year cycle on uniforms, we may have to extend that to five just to give us another year to build up some revenue there. The last case would be asking people to do pay to participate, which we were totally against. And at this point, we don’t see that we need it.”
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.