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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
September 19, 2013 Thursday
SPORTS; Pg. 1C
down in county;
Weather and lack of discretionary income get some of the blame.
By Jeff Greer Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
High school football in Palm Beach County isn't the hot ticket it once was.
Gate receipts at 22 of the 23 public schools declined over the past three seasons, according to school district documents.
Overall, receipts at the 23 schools sank from $609,000 in 2010 to $468,000 last season, a drop of 23 percent.
Tropical Storm Isaac wiped out two significant season openers last fall, which turned out to be one of the wettest on record. But last season's financial drop-off can be blamed only partly on the weather.
It's too early to detect any trends this season, but administrators, coaches, fans and other sources blame the revenue dip on several factors: the ailing economy, gas prices, rising ticket prices and some local powerhouses losing early in the playoffs.
The biggest problem might be that many families have less discretionary income.
"Football games are at the bottom of the list," said Pam Romero, the athletic director at Park Vista High. "It's just not as easy for parents to hand their son or daughter cash for a game at the end of the week."
Park Vista is one of many local schools that raised the price of admission to offset skyrocketing costs for game security and transportation. Park Vista raised tickets for adults from $5 to $6 but implemented a discount of $3 for its students. Romero also began an in-school marketing blitz to boost student attendance.
Palm Beach Central is the only program that increased revenue each of the past three seasons. The Broncos made up gate receipts lost from their canceled 2012 season opener against Seminole Ridge by winning their district and hosting a playoff game.
Last fall, Palm Beach Central was 8-3 and had the highest ticket revenue ($35,915) of any public program in the county. In 2010, the program was among the bottom half of the county. The increase from 2010 to 2012 was 103 percent.
"Our community has been hungry to follow a winning program for years," coach Rod Harris said. "Winning helps out every aspect of the program."
Teams that regularly win, such as Dwyer, Glades Central, Park Vista and Seminole Ridge, rank near the top in gross ticket revenue over the three-year span.
In 2010, Palm Beach County public schools produced two state semifinalists -- Dwyer and Glades Central.
Glades Central hosted one postseason game in Belle Glade and took in $40,206 for the season. Pahokee's gate receipts that season were $30,310, although $23,000 came from the annual Muck Bowl game against arch- rival Glades Central.
Dwyer hosted two playoff games in 2010 and for the season posted the highest gross revenue ($60,394) in the county. Much of the revenue, Dwyer athletic director Tom Pagley said, was spent on security, staffing, transportation and other costs, including fees charged by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
"We've been called a cash cow before and I said, 'Are you kidding me?'~HOA~128~128~" Pagley said. "People will look at these numbers and say we're making a lot of money. We're spending a lot of it, too."
A year later, Dwyer and Seminole Ridge surpassed $50,000 in ticket revenue. Glades Central took in nearly $24,000 from its Labor Day game against Dwyer, which was nationally televised on ESPN and drew 461,000 viewers, a slightly higher figure than ESPN's regular weeknight ratings for Major League Baseball games.
But the dramatic drop in total gross revenue in 2012 showed cracks in the county's support for high school football.
Palm Beach Central was No. 1 in receipts in 2012, but that total was some $20,000 less than the revenue leaders from 2011 (Seminole Ridge) and 2010 (Dwyer).
Part of the problem was that no county team made it past the regional finals in the postseason, and October was one of the rainiest months in memory.
"Bad weather drops any gate total by 50 percent," Pagley said. "Parents still come. Nobody else does. Losing hurts the gate, too."
Tonight's football game: Fort Pierce Central (2-0) is still waiting for doctors to clear star defensive end Rashawn Shaw (knee) for the Cobras' game at 7 p.m. at Martin County (2-1). Post reporter Jeff Greer picks Central 28-7; fellow staff writer Anthony Chiang picks Central 42-10.
email@example.com Twitter: @jeffgreer
September 19, 2013