Editor’s note: This story first published on Oct. 26 and is relevant again this week as the high school football playoffs begin and postseasons finish in boys and girls soccer.
Area prep sports stadiums with artificial turf have become more than playing fields.
For many local high schools and their districts, the stadiums serve a dual purpose as a rare option to generate money for public school systems.
Through rental of their synthetic turf fields to youth and adult sports leagues, state playoff games and marching band competitions, public school systems are able to earn tens of thousands of dollars each year to help offset some of the costs of boys and girls sports teams.
Stadiums are often the traditional centerpieces of school communities. The synthetic playing surfaces have allowed school districts that are restricted by law to few options in generating revenue other than through local school taxes to earn more money.
But it’s no windfall, said school officials.
For example Middletown Schools’ Barnitz Stadium charges flat fees according to requirements set by the Ohio High School Athletic Association for tournaments ranging from $550 to $650 per game.
Barnitz Stadium has one of the larger seating capacities in area, and Randy Bertram, treasurer for the district, said renting out the venue for sporting events gives athletic booster clubs an opportunity to make money through food and other sales at the games.
“As for hosting playoffs or state tournaments at Middletown Schools, since we charge the OHSAA flat rate, the financial benefit is really to our booster clubs via concessions (sales) and parking (charges) and community businesses such as restaurants,” Bertram said.
The revenue is welcome, but it’s a small slice of budgets. At Fairfield, its $91,959 in rental revenue was part of a $99 million budget last year.
“And this figure includes payments for custodial and cafeteria charges. This money is used to offset the custodial, cafeteria and other workers charges as well as upkeep of the buildings and fields,” said Lane
Monroe High School’s stadium this week served as a state playoff site for a Division III girls soccer match and may soon host a state playoff football game, as it did in 2017 when Dayton’s Chaminade Julienne High School played Clermont County’s New Richmond High School at the site.
This week, Monroe Stadium will also host the girls and boys soccer Division I state regional semifinal matches.
Eric Silverman, athletic director for Monroe, said that “one of the benefits of a turf field versus natural grass is that you can host more events on a regular basis.”
“Annual operational cost savings are one benefit of a synthetic turf field and the additional revenue that can be generated by a district’s rental of the facility is another,” said Silverman.
In recent weeks school stadiums have been in the headlines as officials from Hamilton Schools and the private Badin High School wrangled publicly over the scheduling conflicts for Badin’s football and soccer games at Hamilton’s Virgil M. Schwarm Stadium in fall 2020.
And earlier this month, Lakota East High School’s stadium was rented out on a Sunday afternoon to a local youth football league. During the game a young boy fell 20-feet from the top of the stands of the school in Liberty Twp.
Kings Schools in southern Warren County has one of the larger stadiums in the area, but demand from school sports teams, marching band practices and performances take priority over revenue-generating field rentals, officials said.
“Our stadium turf is not rented out very much due to the traffic that our field receives each year from our own programs,” said Tyler Miller, athletic director for Kings. “Most of our rentals come from our own youth leagues on weekends that generate some donations but not a whole lot of revenue.”
Ross Schools this year became the latest Butler County district to install synthetic turf in its stadium. Ross Athletic Director Jake Richards is already hoping any new, long-term rental income might help offset the cost of replacing the turf field once it is worn out from years of use.
“Ultimately, we hope to generate enough revenue from this facility through the life of the current field so that we can replace the field in 12-14 years without asking for much in the way of new funding,” he said.
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