To charge or not to charge for tickets?

MVRHS committee working on a new ticket fee policy for sports and performing arts 

MVRHS committee are considering whether to continue not charging for admissions during sports games next year. — Sam Canfield

You don’t have to pay to cheer on athletes from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for the rest of the winter season, but whether that will remain beyond the season will be determined at a later date. 

The MVRHS committee unanimously voted to extend the suspension on sporting event ticket fees for all attendees during its Monday evening meeting. This request came from the MVRHS student government in January.

The government pushed for fees to be suspended where feasible, to let students cheer on their peers without monetary concerns, and to promote school spirit. 

However, this would not affect the upcoming spring sports season, since those events do not carry a charge. 

“There has been an increase of fans, which is great, but I understand there’s been slight pushback because of … admissions into arts and theater programs,” MVRHS student government member Cali Giglio said. 

She said that one option was keeping admission for individuals 18 and under free, or allowing students with their student IDs to be admitted for free for sports events. 

The administration has shown support for the idea. “We’re thrilled that students can get in,” MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy said. She did say there are some complexities regarding who should be let in for free, such as younger children or parents. 

According to Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools business administrator Mark Friedman, “Ticket proceeds from athletic events and/or musicals go into the general fund.” 

Committee member Kathryn Shertzer pointed out that with this model, “[money] doesn’t necessarily go back to the program [from] which it was collected,” adding that a musical hosted at the school “costs thousands and thousands of dollars” to produce. 

Committee chair Robert Lionette said considering that “there’s been some immediate success” with the no-fee structure, it should be extended for athletic events until another discussion can be held. For other types of events, Lionette asked for the school administration to reach out to relevant departments so more information can be available for a future meeting. 

After further discussion, Dingledy pointed out that since there isn’t much more of the regular season left before playoffs (some sports require ticket fees per Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules), it may be better logistically to continue free admissions for all. However, she was in favor of allowing only students free admission, in the long run. Dingledy also suggested keeping the current fee structure for the upcoming musical, but possibly making performances free of ticket fees in the future. 

Shertzer pointed out that over the six months where sporting events charge for admissions, roughly $25,000 is raised. MVRHS finance director Suzanne Cioffi said this year, sporting events have brought in $13,000 while tickets were being charged, but the musical last year brought in $22,000 during the four days of performances. 

There were no fees for athletic events last year, MVRHS athletic director Mark McCarthy told The Times on Tuesday, because of a rise in COVID near the beginning of the season. However, McCarthy said that considering each ticketed game brings in an average $300 to $400, the total home games bringing in $20,000 to $25,000 was a “decent estimate.” Martha’s Vineyard hosted the Island Cup against Nantucket this year, and that brought in around $5,000. 

Although the rise in students attending games was good, McCarthy said, “It’s hard to tell with just the attendance” whether the temporary fee policy increased the number of fans. This was because attendance varied annually, depending on the success of teams and other factors. Still, he was in favor of having no fees for students, allowing friends to cheer on the athletes. “I think it’ll bring a positive effect on the programs,” he said. 

Since money raised from sports ticket fees goes to the general fund, eliminating them does not directly affect McCarthy’s department.

“The biggest thing for me as the athletic director is increasing attendance, increasing school spirit,” McCarthy said. “Any way we can do that is good for me. I’d like to see these stands filled every day.”