FHSU airs concerns about tourney revenue
By RANDY GONZALES
Fort Hays State University President Edward H. Hammond hopes to meet with Kansas State High School Activities Association Executive Director Gary Musselman sometime this spring to discuss the school's involvement with state tournaments.
Hammond said in an interview Friday the school still wants to host state volleyball, football, wrestling and basketball, but something must be done to alleviate costs associated with those events.
"Primarily, we need to talk about how we continue to provide them the facilities they need in a way that's a win-win environment," Hammond said. "They've made some decisions at the Kansas High School Activities Association to make some changes in the schedule and have negatively impacted the revenues we have been able to generate from the tournaments."
FHSU hosts the Class 1A, Division II state volleyball tourney, the Class 2-1A state football championship game, the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament and the Class 1A, Division II state basketball tourney, which starts Wednesday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Class 1A was divided into Division I and Division II for basketball and volleyball starting with the 2010-11 school year. Division II teams, which come from the smallest schools in the state, were assigned to play their state tournaments in Hays. That is about the time when FHSU Athletic Director Curtis Hammeke started noticing a decline in revenue.
Musselman said KSHSAA has not received a proposal from a member school to re-unify Class 1A. That would help FHSU, Hammond said.
"We'd draw better crowds, and it makes it more worthwhile for us to do it, rather than have the very small crowds we have," Hammond said. "All these events are a money-maker for (KSHSAA), the community makes money out of it, but it costs us money."
When asked if the state events still were making money for his department, Hammeke said "it depends on what all you consider."
"Football runs in the red," Hammeke said. "If you take all the expenses into account, you're not making money. I don't know if we're making any money if you take the facilities and the lights and all that."
The most recent FHSU study estimating the state tournaments' economic impact for the city of Hays came out last year. For the four state events, the combined financial impact is $1,628,370. Those figures do not take into account fans who make day trips to state events and do not stay overnight.
FHSU receives all concession income from state events, and receives 20 percent of ticket sales. FHSU for the last several years also has added a $1 surcharge on every adult ticket; most of the other state sites do not do that. The university also receives a share of the sale of souvenir T-shirts.
Hammeke had a meeting with Hays City Manager Toby Dougherty in the spring of 2012 to inform him of the financial difficulties the university's athletic department was experiencing with state events.
Hammeke planned to meet with Dougherty again in the fall about asking for financial assistance from the city for hosting the tournaments, but that meeting has yet to take place.
Hammeke and Hammond planned to meet with Musselman in December, but the meeting was canceled due to inclement weather. Hammond wants to talk with KSHSAA staff about the athletic department's financial concerns before approaching the city.
"I think that's where we start," he said. "I think we need to pursue that discussion with (KSHSAA) before we turn around and have a discussion with the city."
Musselman said he "would be certainly happy" to meet with FHSU officials.
"We're very appreciative of Hays, Fort Hays State and the athletic department," Musselman said. "We certainly want to work at ways to continue that."
Hammond, aware of the tournaments' impact for the city of Hays, is seeking to find a way to break even or run the events at a minimal loss.
"First of all, our objective is to keep the tournaments in town," Hammond said. "The amount of loss, it was there two years ago, but it was small, it wasn't an issue. But now, it's getting bigger and bigger.
"Our No. 1 priority is to continue to host the events. Our No. 2 priority is to do it on a break-even basis."