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Concord schools suspend student entry fee for athletic events

Admission to Concord High School athletic events is now free for high school and middle school students as well as children under 12.

The school board voted Monday night to suspend entry fees for the year in an effort to increase student attendance at sporting events beyond basketball and football. The board will study whether attendance increased at the end of the year before deciding whether to permanently eliminate the fee for students.

“I think that it’s worth a try if we can increase the enjoyment of athletics for not just the athletes themselves but for students in the general population,” board President Kass Ardinger said.

The discussion on entry fees was sparked by emails board members received from parents of volleyball players. Those parents told the board they had witnessed higher attendance at games hosted by other high schools that did not charge for admission. Concord normally charges students $2 for single-game tickets and $20 for a season pass that lets them into any athletic event. For adults, that rises to $3 for single games and $30 for season passes.

“They felt that entry fees for certain sports here in Concord were an obstacle to building our participation in sports,” Ardinger said.

Under the new policy, any Rundlett Middle School student or high school student with a valid ID can get into any game for free. In an effort to aid parents who bring younger siblings and other children to games, the board also decided that children under 12 can enter all games for free. Students from other districts will still be charged entry fees, and entrance to events held by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, such as tournament games, may still cost money.

Concord charges admission fees for football games and most indoor sports, including volleyball, wrestling and varsity basketball. It is more difficult to charge for outdoor sports such as field hockey where there is no entrance gate. The inconsistency in charging for games also contributed to the board’s decision to eliminate fees, Ardinger said.

Ticket sales were projected to bring in about $20,000 in the 2013-2014 budget, and all of that money goes into the general fund rather than toward the specific sports that generate the revenue. In total, that $20,000 is a very small portion of the total costs of athletics.

During a finance committee meeting in September, board member Bill Glahn suggested charging all students a one-time activity fee at the beginning of the year that would grant free admission to school activities. Glahn also reminded the board that whether students are charged to enter games or not, the district and ultimately taxpayers will have to cover the cost of athletics somehow.

“Don’t ignore the fact that there’s a cost to this, and if we don’t pay for it in one way, we’re going to pay for it in another,” he said.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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