Halberstadt: Whole family should be considered in admission cost for youth sporting events

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

Basketball season is in full swing. The Bulls are playing for the rest of the season without their former league MVP, Derrick Rose. He’s done for the year because of another injury. College teams have begun the non-conference portions of their schedules. The high school teams have hit the hardwood for some holiday tournament action. Even the middle school kids are hooping it up.

Last Friday (Nov. 29), I volunteered to work at one of the local middle school tournaments. It involved eight teams from around northern Illinois. Games began at 9 a.m. and were scheduled through 3 p.m. Admission fee for the all-day event was $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens.

I was in charge of collecting the money at the door. At first, the $5 fee doesn’t sound too bad to see up to six hours or more of basketball. The problem is, not everyone who showed up planned on staying for the entire tournament.

I was asked countless times if there was a reduced price for just one game. That inquiry came primarily from the seniors. I’m assuming most of them were grandparents and had no intention of hanging out on a set of bleachers for more than one game. It would have been nice to be able to tell them it was $2 for one game or $3 for the whole day. I know it’s not much of a difference, but public relations-wise, it would have been the world to that school.

Many of the families in attendance wondered the same thing. Moms were saying they were only going to stay for one game because they had to get one of their other children to bowling, wrestling or one of several other different activities I heard about that busy families deal with on a daily basis. The same thing would have been nice there. How about $4 for a single game and $5 for the entire tournament. That way, people would at least have a choice.

Speaking of families, that leads me to another very common question I encountered: “Is there a flat rate for families?” Unfortunately, the answer I had to give them was, no. I felt a great deal of empathy for the dads saying good-bye to a $20 bill so that mom, little brother and sister could go watch big brother play basketball for an hour. There were plenty of moms with multiple children in tow feeling that same pain. A flat family rate of $12 would have been a welcome site for many of the attendees.

I fully understand there are expenses associated with putting on a tournament. There were trophies for the winners, professional referees, heat and electricity for the building, etc. I think that forcing everyone who walks through the door to be subject to a strict pricing structure is inherently unfair.

Instead, why not allow people to decide for themselves whether they want to take advantage of the better deal — that little bit of autonomy creates a more “friendly” environment. Trust me on this one. Those warm, fuzzy feelings tend to go a long way with the public.

I hope any athletic director who reads this will take some of these points into consideration when planning their next big tournament. Feel free to pass it along to your colleagues as well.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.

From the Dec. 4-10, 2013, issue

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