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State tournaments beginning to drain FHSU resources

10/13/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University plans to revisit later this fall a discussion about the city of Hays providing financial assistance in hosting high school state championship events.

FHSU Athletic Director Curtis Hammeke, who has noticed a revenue decline in recent years for some state events hosted by the school, talked informally with Hays City Manager Toby Dougherty in the spring.

"They were just basically making me aware that the state tournaments were causing them some issues," Dougherty said of his meeting with Hammeke, which he said took place approximately four or five months ago. "They didn't really go into detail what the issues were, but they were causing some logistical issues, and possibly financial issues."

FHSU currently hosts the Class 1A Division I and II state volleyball tournaments, which will be later this month, the Class 2-1A state football championship game in November, the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament in February, and the Class 1A Division II state basketball tourney in March.

FHSU receives all concession income from state events and receives a percentage of income generated from ticket sales. Hammeke said FHSU's take is 20 percent of the gate. As well, FHSU for the last several years has added a $1 surcharge on every adult ticket; most of the other state sites do not do that, said Gary Musselman, executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association.

Class 1A was divided into Division I and Division II for basketball and volleyball starting in the 2010-11 school year. The smallest schools in the state, in Division II, were assigned to play their state tournaments at FHSU's Gross Memorial Coliseum. That is about the time when Hammeke started noticing a decline in revenue.

"We can show a trend going down, a downward spiral through the years, just makes it fiscally a little more challenging to make it worthwhile," Hammeke said. "There are other benefits to it, certainly; make an impact to the community and the benefit of having students and their parents on our campus as well."

The most recent FHSU study estimating the state tournaments' economic impact for the city of Hays came out just this year. For the four state events, the combined financial impact was estimated at $1,628,370. Those figures do not count fans who make day trips to state events, and who do not stay overnight.

Hammeke said the state wrestling tournament was on solid financial footing, but state football was "pretty shaky" in addition to declines in volleyball and basketball.

"At this point in time, we're still committed to hosting the tournaments," Hammeke said. "We haven't had any discussions internally about not hosting them."

FHSU also could have competition for hosting state events. Dodge City has built a new basketball arena, with a casino nearby to entice fans.

"You can only imagine Dodge City is going to come into the picture with the casino and the facility they have down there," Hammeke said.

KSHSAA already has received interest from Dodge City in hosting state events, Musselman said.

"Dodge City would love to have us come. They would love for us to bring an event to their arena," Musselman said. "They've asked us to come tour their facility, and a couple of my assistants have gone and looked at it."

Hammeke said FHSU and KSHSAA have a good relationship. In the past, they have worked together to move the state basketball tournament up a day, in case FHSU hosted a regional basketball tournament that same weekend. Last year, KSHSAA moved the state wrestling tournament up a day so FHSU could host regional wrestling.

"I know the state likes the way Fort Hays runs the tournaments, they like the proximity to the small schools, and they seem to like their experiences here," Hammeke said.

Musselman said moving up a state event a day is an issue with some people who contact him.

"That's hard for us," Musselman said of moving state events up a day. "At the same time, the college has been great to work with us.

"The reality is you have to work together," he added. "It's a partnership deal."

Hammeke would like assistance in FHSU's informal partnership with the city to host the state events.

"I would be hopeful that the city would be willing to help us financially in securing these events in the future, so it doesn't become a point where it's actually costing us money to run the events," Hammeke said.

In 1974, the Class 1A basketball tournament moved to Hays from Dodge City and has been here ever since. State volleyball has been in Hays since 1992. Grand state wrestling, which had winners from all classes meet after state wrestling, was in Hays the two years of its existence, in 1975 and 1976. FHSU since has hosted a state wrestling tournament every year since 1979. FHSU has hosted state football since 1990.

"We don't want to do anything to hurt the community," Hammeke said. "There's a rationale behind all the thoughts; I don't want it to come across we're not a good partner with the community."

Dougherty, who said FHSU's request for financial assistance is not all that unusual, hasn't talked with FHSU officials since that first meeting, at which dollar figures were not discussed. If FHSU wants financial assistance, it would have to make a formal request to the city.

"Whether the two can come to an agreement on something, I don't know," he said. "It's not uncommon for things like this to happen across the state."

Hammeke said the issue has been on the back burner recently, but he plans to revisit it.

"I would imagine sometime later this fall, I would probably try to get back with Toby," Hammeke said. "Just to discuss it further."

Hammeke said FHSU wants to continue hosting the state events. He added it's not an either-or situation: either help financially or FHSU won't host.

"I don't want it to come across we don't want to have the state events," Hammeke said.