High school athletic departments take financial hit during virus crisis

Coronavirus

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — With the coronavirus limiting ticket and concession sales this fall, athletic departments throughout the area have taken significant financial hits.

Tim Burton, the athletic director and assistant principal at Heritage Junior/Senior High School, estimated that Heritage’s athletic department is down between $10,000 – $15,000 this fall compared to last year at this time.

“Per the East Allen County School’s reopening plan with the Allen County Board of Health, we had two big home games against South Adams and Adams Central, that are usually pretty much sellouts, where we were relegated to only 125 fans on the visitors side,” said Burton. “So we took a big hit for those two games.”

In addition to a limited amount of spectators due to the virus, Heritage had to cancel two of its home football games that typically generate a “major amount” of revenue.

“So not having those last two home games is going to harm the athletic department a little bit money-wise,” said Burton. “Football kind of drives the athletic department [financially].”

Concession stand sales at Heritage have also been significantly down this fall.

“You have to have all your food pre-wrapped. They just recently let us start selling hot dogs if they’re wrapped up, but it was mostly just like drinks and candy,” said Burton. “Instead of selling like, you know, nachos and cheese, hot dogs, pizza, all that good stuff that we would really used to sell a lot of.”

Burton said in a typical fall, athletics bring in about $30,000.

Throughout the entire school year, according to Burton, after bills are paid there’s usually between $30,000 and $40,000 left in the athletic department’s account.

“Things are expensive. A good football helmet costs $300,” said Burton. “There’s just a lot of expenses. You have to pay officials, you have to pay workers, jerseys, equipment, things like that.”

To make up for the lack of income being brought in, several coaches at Heritage have taken it upon themselves to fundraise.

“My football coach and his booster club have gotten several different advertisers. We have banners, you know, for their companies hanging on our fences. My basketball coaches work with young kids with camps and tournaments here at Heritage,” said Burton. “The soccer coach has a tournament here, my volleyball coach is trying to run a club volleyball tournament.”

“So everybody’s kind of stepped up their pace to pick up the slack for the lack of income,” said Burton.

With teams fundraising on their own and with money saved from last year, Burton is optimistic that the lack of money being brought in this year won’t impact future seasons.

“Hopefully there will be a vaccine sometime soon and hopefully this will go away,” said Burton. “We’re surviving, we’re rolling through, and we’re just looking forward to getting things back to normal.”

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