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Halifax County High School begins second year of operating concessions

Like many people and businesses these days, Halifax County High School’s athletic department is battling to maintain its financial status quo. With the sagging economy, donations have declined as has revenue from the sale of advertisements for everything from sports calendars to game programs.

Halifax County High School Athletic Director Allen Lawter understands the struggles of individuals and businesses in the tough economy and says he and school officials are very grateful for the financial support and donations various individuals and businesses have made and are making to the school and the athletic program.

“The people and businesses do a tremendous job supporting us,” Lawter remarked.

“The community does all it can, but when people and businesses don’t have the money, they can’t donate it.”

In an effort to counteract the revenue shortfall in Halifax County High School’s athletic budget, which averages between $110,000 to $115,000 a year, school officials last year took over the operation of the concession stands for all of its sports events. The school is continuing that practice this year.

The school’s takeover of the concession stand business ended a long-standing tradition of having sports booster clubs operating the concession stands as a club fund-raising venture. Lawter says the concession stand operations have helped to make up for revenue lost in other areas.

“I think it really helped our athletic budget,” Lawter said.

“I have not done a cost analysis to see exactly where the shortfalls were. It could have been in (game) attendance, it could have been donations, advertising or whatever. I think it did make up for any of those areas that we may have been down on. Overall, we felt like we were pretty much at the same level financially at the end of last year (compared to the previous year).”

Lawter pointed out that booster clubs have done a great deal to help the school’s athletic program and teams, “but we have to have enough money through the school to run them first,” Lawter explained.

“The booster clubs, we consider them extra. They buy some necessities along the way because they want to. But, we feel we need the money to buy the necessities here through the athletic department.”

With the concession stand operations now in the hand of the high school’s athletic department, the various booster clubs are finding it difficult to raise money to support their respective teams.

“It has hurt our booster clubs,” Lawter acknowledged.

“They are struggling to try to find new ways of raising money. They have had to really do some extra work to make up for it. It’s a snowball effect as far as whom it affects and the way it affects you and that type of thing. The football booster club, for instance, is looking at other avenues to raise money. All of them are looking for other avenues because of this.”

One of the things Lawter says helps matters in the operation of the concession stands is that supplies can be bought in bulk, which results in a cost savings.

“I feel like it’s got to help when we can go in and buy in bulk and get a little bit better price on things,” he remarked.

“If we find supplies on sale, we’ll buy enough to cover the concessions for awhile. It does make what we have a little more consistent from one concession to the other. But, I do not have the financial records of what they (the booster clubs) did before. We feel like buying in bulk it helps some, but we don’t have anything to compare it to.”

With the school taking over the concessions, Lawter says consistency in operations has improved.

“When people come to games, they know it’s going to be open at least 30 minutes before game time,” he said.

“People know what to expect when they come.”

Sports teams are involved

Lawter said the way the school’s concessions operation works is that coaches and players of out-of-season sports teams work the concession stands.

“That’s the way we try to do it,” he said.

“Football is a little different animal because it is just played on Friday nights. Last Friday night the cross country team and coaches came in after a short practice and worked it. This is during their season, but we try to get the out-of-season coaches and teams to help.

“Different teams and different coaches take different approaches,” Lawter continued.

“Last year, soccer ran their own like they had done before. We were still doing it through the school. They decided to do the same, and they had their reasons for wanting to do that.

“They (the soccer booster clubs) did not do a whole lot of outside fund-raising,” he added.

“They (the soccer teams) pretty much took care of their own during the season. But, that’s what they chose to do, and it worked for them. Other coaches and teams would rather work on it out of season.”

Teachers are not assigned concession stand duty.

“The only way teachers will work is if they have a child playing a sport, and they want to do it as a parent representing the team,” he pointed out.

A challenge

Lawter admits that taking over the concession operations has had its challenges. As the person in charge of athletics at the high school, this is another facet that has been added to his job.

“It’s had its challenges,” Lawter said.

“It’s time-consuming. You have to order your supplies, you have to go get your supplies, and you have to stock them once they come in. Then, there is the matter of scheduling the workers and making sure everything is in place.

“Without Sandra (athletic department secretary Sandra Lowery) and other people, including the coaches, stepping up to help, it would be a lot tougher. With everyone’s help, we have been successful.”

A more even distribution

While the various booster clubs ran concession stand operations, booster clubs for some teams were able to raise more money to support their team than others were due to a variety of factors that included the size of crowds at games, the number of available games and other factors.

As a result, the players of some teams reaped more “extras” than others.

With the high school operating the concessions, there is a more even distribution of necessities as well as “extras.”

“That was not the reason the athletic department took it (the concession operations) over,” Lawter said.

“But, it (having the school operate the concession stands) does provide an opportunity to have the funds spread around a little more evenly (among the teams). Now, all will see some benefits of it. They all also help work it now. Not only are the funds distributed more, the work is more distributed evenly among the different groups.”