Dearborn Schools Debate Athletic Pass System
As the district explores more opportunities for revenue enhancement at its three athletic fields, differences in student passes and revenue programs are at the forefront of the debate.
Bringing a sense of continuity to school functions can be a challenge in large school districts–and that has certainly been true when it comes to pricing and providing athletic passes at Dearborn’s three public high schools.
The Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education is seeking to open up a dialogue about the pricing of passes sold at the schools and by athletic booster clubs, but board members are concerned that efforts may be seen as an attempt to undercut the fundraising opportunities of the boosters, who have contributed their time and resources to the schools’ many athletic events.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can support our booster clubs,” said Trustee Hussein Berry at the board's Jan. 9 meeting. “If we can get more fans at these events, the more they will spend on merchandise and at the concession stands, and they’ll make more money.”
Revenues Under the Microscope
Revenues generated by passes sold to students, combined with gate receipts, and advertising, make up funds that pay for the field to be open, plus some maintenance. The dollars are not meant to underwrite the district’s entire athletic program, but assist the funding, said Bob Cipriano, the director of business services for the district.
“We want to encourage our students, our community, our faculty to attend our athletic events, and we want them to attend all of our school events,” he said. “And, we want to make that attendance affordable and accessible (while) at the same time understanding these revenues offset the cost of the athletics directly, and the cost to the general fund.”
In total, revenues at the fields for the 2011-12 school year for fall sports are $102,410. The total gate receipts are $83,815. Conventional student passes generated another $9,370, and booster passes generated $8,225.
Revenues generated for football were $73,233, $6,224 for soccer, $905 for field hockey, $1,147 for swimming and $2,306 for volleyball.
Schools Have Varying Prices, Admission Models
Students can procure passes to attend athletic events from their schools, or from a booster club. Community members–including parents–typically purchase passes from boosters.
But, there are differences in pricing at each of the schools, and at the booster clubs–something some board members said needs to change.
“A student at Dearborn High shouldn’t pay more than a student at Fordson or a student at Edsel Ford,” Trustee Aimee Blackburn said. “I’m concerned because I think that it’s an extreme burden on parents who want to come see their kids play sports. I know it’s easy for us to sell tickets to a high school football game, but it’s not as easy for us to get parents to a JV game.”
For example, Blackburn remembers times at her son's JV games when only five people were in attendance.
Currently, student athletic passes that allow students to attend games at their home school are $25 dollars at Dearborn and Edsel Ford, but are $30 at Fordson. These passes include home games only, so a student attending Dearborn would not be able to use his or her pass to enter a game at Fordson, even if Dearborn High is the opponent.
The Dearborn Booster Club sells passes at $60 each, $40 of which goes to the district. Edsel Ford and Fordson boosters sell passes for $25 per pass. The difference between is that the more expensive Dearborn pass allows Dearborn students admission to an entire year's worth of athletic events at Dearborn High; the Edsel and Fordson passes are punch cards allowing 10 admissions.
It’s those differences that have prompted some examination by administrators, especially because student passes sold at Fordson are more expensive.
“For what we receive in return financially, I would rather see those parents in the stand,” Blackburn said. “I think that allowing each school to decide what they’re going to sell what for is wrong as a district.”
Amy Szostek, the president of the Dearborn Boosters, said she and her membership welcome an open dialogue with the district.
"We would like to sit down with the district and see what we can agree on," she said. "We've sold a lot of passes, and I think we have a successful program."
A Universal Pass?
One new idea supported by several board members is a universal pass that would allow students to gain entrance to all in-district athletic events.
“I would like to see a universal pass, whether it costs more money or not," Blackburn said, adding that kids should be able to go to any game in the district with a pass. “It shouldn’t be something we keep kids away from because of the cost.”
Trustee James Schoolmaster agreed, but cautioned a possible need for crowd control at some of the district's busier games–like the Fordson-DHS football rivalry game.
“The only drawback I can see at a heavily-attended game is that you might have people that would have to be turned away,” he said. “People would be very unhappy if they weren’t allowed to come into the game, and they paid (for a pass).”
District spokesman David Mustonen said an improved senior citizen pass for games will be re-launched, and that the next step in the debate is to get the clubs to come to the table to speak with the district about the issues and make recommendations.