Worthington sports could feel financial pinch from coronavirus

GARY SEMAN JR.
gseman@thisweeknews.com
Jen Goebbel, athletics director for Thomas Worthington High School, and Jeff Todd, athletics director for Worthington Kilbourne High School, are facing decreases in proceeds from fall-sports ticket sales because of the state's restrictions during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Worthington's high schools stand to lose $25,000 to $35,000 each in ticket sales from fall sports because of the state's pandemic restrictions, according to two Worthington Schools officials.

Ticket sales for football games, which draw the most spectators, are expected to decrease from $40,000 per season to $15,000 this shortened season – or a little more than $5,000 per game, with three home games scheduled – if every ticket is sold, said Jen Goebbel, athletics director for Thomas Worthington High School.

The same goes for Worthington Kilbourne High School, Goebbel said.

"It's our highest revenue-generating sport, but it's also one of our most expense sports to offer," she said.

Additional restrictions or cancellations because of COVID-19 coronavirus infections could throw the season into more turmoil, Goebbel said.

There's more: Each participant – athletes, coaches, cheerleaders and marching-band members – will receive an allotment of three tickets each for close family members, who must purchase them online, she said.

Tickets, $7 each, are not transferable to friends, neighbors or anyone else, Goebbel said.

Also new this year, free tickets will not be distributed to senior citizens, she said.

Ticket rules apply to all other athletics programs at the two high schools: cheerleading, volleyball, field hockey, soccer, cross country, tennis, golf and water polo.

"I appreciate that we're trying to let some spectators in," said Jeff Todd, athletics director for Worthington Kilbourne. "I think it's good that athletes have some family members there to watch them. It's not ideal, but it's the best thing under the circumstances."

At Thomas Worthington home football games, maximum capacity will be 180 for the visiting side and 540 for the home side, Goebbel said.

At Worthington Kilbourne, capacity will be 220 on the away side and 380 on the home side, Todd said.

At football games, no concessions will be served, halftime is 10 minutes and locker rooms will not be used, Goebbel said.

The percentage of tickets sold will be based on the venue at which the sports are played, Goebbel said. Put another way, a volleyball game has less seating but each participant still would get three tickets, she said.

Carina Napoleon, a senior at Thomas Worthington, said the spectator situation does not affect her much in her sport of cross country, as few students typically have attended to cheer on the athletes.

"While racing, you can't always tell who is who," said Napoleon, 17. "Everybody is cheering."

She said it will affect her from a personal standpoint because she planned to go to a few football games and has some friends on the team.

"I'm sad that there's no ability to go to those games," Napoleon said. "And I think it will be different for the players, and it makes me sad because maybe they won't have as much fun."

In addition, the full impact of the lost revenue and how it would be made up is not clear at the moment, said district spokeswoman Vicki Gnezda.

"I think those discussions have yet to be had," Gnezda said.

Greg Fisher, president of Wolves Inc., the nonprofit booster organization for Worthington Kilbourne, said his affiliated organizations have had to get creative this year with fundraising efforts.

For example, the football boosters used to go door to door, selling restaurant gift certificates to raise money. Now that's being done online, Fisher said.

Boosters don't raise money to make up for losses but contribute in other ways to help the athletes, such as providing new equipment for the weight room, promoting the scholar-athlete program and donating toward game-video services, he said.

"Even in these challenging times, everyone is working hard to support the student-athletes with safety protocols but also to make sure everyone has every opportunity this year, even in the midst of this," Fisher said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary