Spectators planning to attend area high school football games on Friday nights will soon see a price increase at the ticket window.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools approved Tuesday a raise in the cost of admission to $7 effective immediately for both basketball and football games. The proposal, which was first presented to the board in June, impacts more than 10 high schools in the district.
And it’s just in time for the second week of football season, with six games kicking off across Forsyth County tonight.
According to John Sullivan, the athletics director for the county, the move for a price increase — just a $1 hike from the $6 fans previously paid — comes in response to increasing costs associated with playing JV and varsity games.
Sullivan said the most expensive sports are football and basketball.
“It’s been discussed by the ADs and principals because of the increased costs in officiating and security,” Sullivan said. “Obviously the bigger the crowds, the more security you need. ... Our costs and their fees go up every year.”
In November at its annual winter board meeting, the NCHSAA approved a pay increase for high school officials — now a $90 charge per referee for football and $100 for basketball.
It adds up, along with the cost of local security at games. According to Sullivan, the district utilizes officers from four agencies — Winston-Salem Police, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, Kernersville Police and North State Security Group — to handle crowds.
For Brad Fisher, the athletics director at Reynolds, the combination can be part of an expensive night for a home football game at Deaton-Thompson Stadum. Ticket takers, announcers and scoreboard operators along with a booking agent, who schedules officials to referee matchups, are compensated.
According to Fisher, the price tag of playing host to a football game is about $2,650 before kickoff. And, because of expenses, Reynolds lost money on four of its five JV games last season, Fisher said.
“We need football gates to fund all the other sports,” Fisher said. “You know, for all the other sports that don’t charge an admission, we want to give those students the exact same experience that our other athletes get.
“To do that, it costs money. And that money comes from our football and basketball gates.”
The rise in admission prices, which applies to JV and varsity matchups, could extend further than football and basketball. Each high school in the district is allowed to decide whether to charge a $6 admission price for boys and girls soccer games, boys and girls tennis matches, track and field meets and swim meets.
Admission prices for baseball and softball games and wrestling matches will not be affected.
The board’s approval is a welcome change for Sean Vestal, the athletics director at North Forsyth. Generating money in previous seasons was a challenge whenever the Vikings played home games.
North Forsyth previously competed in the Piedmont Triad 3-A — just one of three area programs in a seven-school conference, the majority being from Guilford County. At the NCHSAA’s winter meeting, the Vikings gained approval to change classifications, putting them in the Western Piedmont Athletic 2-A at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.
According to Vestal, the fans from Guilford County simply didn’t travel well. Being added to a now eight-team conference that includes three teams from Forsyth County is likely to change that.
An increased price at the gate could help as well.
The new task is making out-of-town teams aware of the sudden changes. In particular, the Vikings’ conference includes teams from Stokes, Yadkin and Surry counties.
“The thing is, just getting this information out — I think that’s the big thing right now — because it was just passed on (Tuesday) night,” Vestal said. “Right now, we’re trying to do a good job as ADs in communicating with our out-of-county schools.
“... That’s going to be a challenge for us because when those out-of-county schools come in, you know, they have to play by our rules because that’s what we’re doing.”