Wood BOE considering senior citizen discounts

PARKERSBURG – Board of education members Tuesday agreed to consider a plan to provide discounts for senior citizens attending Wood County athletic events.

Board member Lawrence Hasbargen, who labeled himself a senior citizen, would like to see seniors involved in the community as much as possible. He thinks allowing seniors free entry to athletic events would be “good for them and good for us.”

“I’d like to see seniors go for free,” he said.

The matter was discussed during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. It received support from all five board members, but no vote was taken.

“It’s one thing to be in favor of something,” board President Tim Yeater said, “but before we jump into the discussion let’s get our numbers and feedback from athletic departments.”

Since January, the board has doled out $900,000 – in unbudgeted expenses – for athletic improvements, including $700,000 to PHS Stadium Field bleachers. Officials plan to get the bleachers open this fall in time for football season. The BOE also approved $200,000 in funding for the track at the Erickson All-Sports Facility.

Board members also mentioned – several times Tuesday – the possibility of placing funding needs for athletics on upcoming bond and levy issues.

Tuesday Sue Woodward, assistant superintendent of Wood County Schools, at the request of the board outlined maintenance and facility costs spent on athletic facilities at Parkersburg, Parkersburg South and Williamstown high schools. Since July 1, 2010, Woodward said school system officials have spent $461,000 on the facilities. That does not include approximately $250,000 on projects to be done this summer at PHS, with a sprinkler system for the annex and the rebuilding of a retaining wall.

PHS, like most schools, is nearly self-sufficient with regard to athletics. Aside from the money for emergency repairs, athletic departments receive little money from the board, and rely heavily on football to generate revenue to sustain other athletic programs. Football and boys basketball are traditionally the only revenue-generating sports in high school athletics.

At Parkersburg High, pre-sold football ticket prices are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for students. Tickets sold at the gate are $7.

There is a $1 surcharge on each football ticket, with the money split between the stadium committee and the board (for maintenance). And 10 cents of every football ticket goes to the band.

Big Reds football tickets generate about $110,000 a year, PHS athletics director Lori Lowers said.

Lowers deferred comment on the senior program. It was the first she heard of the idea, but Lowers said she plans to look into the matter to see how it could affect the athletics budget.

Hasbargen doesn’t think the senior program will affect much and downplayed any financial issues.

“I don’t see it as a large amount,” he said. “I don’t think you are looking at a large number of people.”

He said the majority of fans at games are parents and students, and the board could be “accommodating” to help retirees and seniors attend events.

“Many of these people will continue to pay just to support athletics,” he said.

“I am in favor of pursuing the idea, but I want some feedback,” Yeater said.

Before we put this on as an agenda item, we need some feedback from senior groups and athletic department directors.”

There may be some positive,” he added. “But at the end of the day … we still have to pay for it.”