|Mount Greylock School Committee Talks Sports Ticketing|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff |
05:15AM / Tuesday, September 19, 2023
|Mount Greylock High started charging for admission to volleyball games this year.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock School Committee last week received an explanation of how and why fans are charged to attend sporting events at the middle-high school.
The discussion was prompted by a move this year to start charging for admission to volleyball games.
Mount Greylock's director of athletics and co-curricular activities explained that the school's policy is to charge for admission for indoor events (basketball, volleyball and wrestling) and night games played on John Allen Field (soccer, lacrosse and football). The school also charges for nighttime performances in the auditorium.
"Schools in Berkshire County have been charging for basketball, football and night soccer games for many, many years," Lindsey von Holtz told the committee. "We did talk about doing this a few years back, but the pandemic happened, and it did not feel like a good time to institute new ticketing strategies.
"What we started this fall is going back to charging for night soccer and night lacrosse events … any outdoor game on John Allen Field where we'd turn on the lights. This fall, there will be four boys soccer games and four girls soccer games [under the lights]. For indoor sports, we wanted to be consistent across the board."
Von Holtz said the district has made events free to students of all ages in the district, allowing classmates and younger siblings to attend. And the athletic department has worked with the guidance office to identify families who might benefit from discounts in order to attend their childrens' games; with a virtual ticketing system in place and no money changing hands at the gate, the holders of discounted tickets are admitted like any other fans, she explained.
Superintendent Jason McCandless told the board that the administration had planned to talk about its ticketing strategy at the board's August meeting, but after that was canceled, the school felt it was better to start the fall season under the new policy rather than implement something after it could be discussed at the Sept. 14 meeting.
Von Holtz said the school had received feedback — good and bad — about the change.
School Committee member Julia Bowen said she had forwarded to McCandless a question she had heard from a constituent about the ticket policy when it went into place this fall.
"At the time, I saw it as two competing values — being fiscally responsible and building community," Bowen said. "I'm incredibly aware how activities at schools can become a community center. It's not necessarily our mission to be a center of a community, but we are part of the broader community.
"I'm curious about being consistent with other schools and how we prioritize that."
Both von Holtz and McCandless indicated that one of the drivers for the school's policy is consistency with other schools. Von Holtz pointed out that if fans have a consistent expectation of the price at each venue, it makes life easier on ticket takers at every school.
"Having been in a couple of different places outside of Mount Greylock, there are some places that rely much more on ticket revenue to make athletics fly," McCandless said. "There is an effort to keep some consistency across school districts so there's not the feeling of peer pressure.
"It could become, potentially, another means of separating districts that have more resources from districts that don't have as many resources. I think that's at the root of trying to have some level of consistency across the community and in the larger Western Mass region."
In response to questions from the committee, Business Manager Joe Bergeron told the panel that student activity fees and ticket revenue, combined, account for about $100,000 of what's needed to operate Mount Greylock's extra-curriculars. Von Holtz said the school took in just more than $27,000 in ticket sales alone in the 2022-23 school year.
She said the school uses athletic ticket sales mostly for expenses like equipment, supplies and uniforms. In the theater program, ticket revenue defrays the cost of costumes, props and rights fees for productions.
Von Holtz noted that extra-curriculars continue to be popular at the middle-high school, which has a preliminary enrollment of 557 for the 2023-24 school year.
"We have 250 students participating in something this fall — 25 more students than last year," von Holtz said. "At the club fair today, we had 50 students sign up for [the Fall Festival of Shakespeare], which starts on Monday."
In other business on Thursday, the School Committee heard reports from all three of the district's principals on the start of school and met virtually with new assistant principals at Mount Greylock and Williamstown Elementary.
Much of the meeting was spent on a familiar topic for the panel, the planned track and field
at the middle-high school.
It also heard about a new initiative. Language teacher Joseph Johnson presented a proposal to create a regular travel program with a school in La Cumbre, Argentina. Johnson said he ran a similar program when he was at Lenox Memorial Middle High School and envisions the Mount Greylock students traveling south every other year during the April vacation with the La Cumbre students coming north for a week in alternating years.
Johnson said the cost of travel to families would be on the order of $2,000, which he argued was less expensive than trips through student travel groups that target more touristy destinations.
The School Committee, which approves all overnight travel involving students, was supportive of Johnson's proposal but could not hold a vote to approve it since no vote was listed on the meeting's agenda. Instead, the panel will take up the proposal along with a question on value engineering for the field and track project at a special meeting on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.