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School trustees spar over football ticket prices

CHS agrees to charge $6 for L-E, NCHS games; $7 for all others

Posted: August 17, 2017 4:44 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Several members of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees became engaged in heated discussion over Camden High School’s (CHS) decision to charge $7 for all Bulldog varsity football games while Lugoff-Elgin and North Central high schools still charge $6.

Chairman Ron Blackmon claimed that while the S.C. High School League (SCHSL) could suggest what schools could charge for football game admission, only the board had the authority to actually set prices.

“You can use the region as an excuse,” Blackmon said, referring to Region 4-AAA, in which the Bulldogs play. “They can set a price, but you don’t have to use it.”

He suggested that if prices were different at each of Kershaw County’s stadiums, it could hurt attendance.

“I want to be competitive, but that’s not the point. The point is that the board is the authority,” Blackmon said.

Trustee Derrick Proctor, of Lugoff, who holds Seat 3 on the board, said the timing of the extra dollar “looks bad.”

“I’m afraid people will think that the extra dollar is for the new scoreboard,” Proctor said, which school officials have made clear it is not.

That is why, Blackmon responded, CHS should have brought the matter to the board.

Trustee Matt Irick, however, asked Blackmon to tell him what board policy sets the authority for ticket pricing with the board. The two men went back and forth, with Irick demanding to see the policy and Blackmon insisting he had explained the process as part of his report.

At this point, Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan suggested a compromise whereby Camden would charge $6 for tonight’s game against Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) and the Aug. 25 contest against North Central High School (NCHS), and then charge $7 for the remaining home games. Those games will be played against other Region 4-AAA teams.

A look through the board’s policy manual as it appears online found only one reference to anything that might be connected to ticket prices, even if indirectly. The first sentence of board policy DFF, “Income from School Sales and Services” -- which was adopted in May 1997 and went into effect that June -- reads, “The principal has jurisdiction over all athletic, student organization, and activity funds.” There appears to be no board policy directly speaking to the setting of ticket prices for athletic events.

According to the SCSHL’s 2017-2018 rules and regulations, the league did set a price this year for host schools to charge $7 admission to all play-off games and $10 to all state finals. The rules and regulations make no reference to prices for regular season games, apparently leaving that decision to individual schools.

In an email forwarded to the C-I by KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd, CHS Principal Dan Matthews  -- who is president of the SCHSL executive committee -- said, “According to our information and checking with (former) Coach (Jimmy) Neal, it appears that ticket prices were raised from $4 to $5 in 2001, and then from $5 to $6 in 2008.”

That was nine years ago.

Tuesday night, Trustee Dr. Don Copley indicated he would not want the board to be in charge of ticket prices, especially in light of the reaction to Zemp Stadium’s new scoreboard.

“If they did come back to us,” Copley said of people upset with the higher ticket price, “I wouldn’t want the backlash coming back on us.”

Things then briefly heated up between Irick and Proctor as they moved the discussion to parking fees and equity in conjunction with ticket prices. Proctor suggested the additional $1 per ticket should be exchanged for a break on parking fees. Irick -- echoing comments by former Board Chair Mara Jones two weeks ago -- said that equity needs to take into account the differences in enrollment at the three high schools.

In the end, Morgan said he believed there was consensus from the board regarding his suggestion that ticket prices be set at $6 for the Bulldog’s games against L-EHS and NCHS and $7 for remaining home games. Byrd confirmed Morgan approached Matthews at Camden High on Wednesday morning.

“It was his idea and he talked with Mr. Matthews, who was agreeable to it,” Byrd said.

She acknowledged that some tickets for tonight’s football game against L-EHS had already been sold. Byrd said anyone who purchased a ticket at the $7 price would be able to return to the school (CHS or L-EHS) where they made the purchase to receive a $1 reimbursement. Those buying tickets today, either at the schools or at the gate, will pay the $6 price.

Following the L-EHS and NCHS matchups, remaining home games will be played against Cheraw on Sept. 8, Chester on Oct. 13 and Columbia on Oct. 27. Admission to those games will cost $7.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the board:

• recognized Blackmon and trustees Todd McDonald and James Smith for awards they received from the S.C. School Board Association;

• received a pre-opening of school report from Morgan;

• received a construction update from KCSD Director of Operations Billy Smith;

• unanimously passed an annual bond resolution connected to the district’s Phase I construction installment purchase plan; and

• entered executive session to discuss undisclosed employment matters and a legal matter concerning a contractual agreement with the county -- no action was taken afterward.

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