HomeTown Ticketing Provides Pandemic-Safe Access for High School Sports

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Money repeatedly changes hands between the ticket taker and the fans in line to enter an Ohio high school sports event. It’s a scenario that once played out almost almost every night but is no longer acceptable during the coronavirus era.

Instead, a simple QR code on a smartphone is now the norm, and it does away with hand to hand contact. An electronic device reads the code, which confirms that a prepaid ticket had been purchased online through HomeTown Ticketing.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association has partnered with the company to provide tickets at most area school districts, including Austintown, Boardman, Brookfield, Salem, Campbell, Canfield, Youngstown, Crestview, Liberty,  Howland, Jackson-Milton, Poland, Warren, Leetonia, Lowellville, Weathersfield and Springfield.

Founded in 2016 in Columbus, HomeTown has more than 60 employees throughout Ohio and works with grade schools and high schools nationwide, as well as colleges and state athletics bodies such as the OHSAA. The company serves 417 school districts in Ohio.

All OHSAA-member schools use HomeTown Ticketing for postseason ticket sales.

Parents of student-athletes are among the few permitted to attend sporting events during the pandemic. They are given codes for tickets by their school’s athletic department to purchase postseason tickets.

Attendance is limited at each event because of Gov. Mike DeWine’s orders on seating capacity.

Poland Local Schools’ athletic administrator Brian Banfield says one code was given to each player to purchase tickets, but he streamlined the process — providing one code per team. Banfield worked with HomeTown Ticketing so all parents all have one point of entry to purchase tickets.

Lorien Parry Luehrs, president and chief operating officer of HomeTown Ticketing, says her organization charges $1 per ticket, but has no license or monthly fee. That $1 is an added cost to the original ticket price.

HomeTown Ticketing uses Stripe as its payment processor, which allows her company to connect for the transaction and the school or organization to access its ticket revenue. Stripe’s fee to HomeTown is 2.9% plus 30 cents per credit card transaction. 

The ticket price, before fees, is retained by the school in the regular season. The OHSAA claims the school’s ticket sales in the postseason as the governing body maintains high school tournaments.

HomeTown Ticket’s development team is looking into other forms of payment such as Venmo, Apple Pay or PayPal, this fall.

“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for fans to purchase tickets,” Luehrs says.

Poland Local Schools athletic administrator Brian Banfield

Banfield says everything has been seamless as far as the transactions; the only negative feedback has been the additional fees for each playoff ticket. OHSAA postseason tickets cost anywhere from $10 to $15 with service fees of $1.40, Banfield says.

“It does get pricey when you have a family of four going to a basketball game, so that would be the only drawback,” he says. “But I do see a lot of people using their phone to gain access to the games. It’s worked very well.”

Luehrs says about 52% of the high schools in Ohio use HomeTown Ticketing. Salem City Schools athletic director Matt Freeman says his school has a three-year contract with the company for regular-season and postseason entrance to games.

Freeman says his school’s system will be a hybrid with paper tickets still available. He adds those who provide standard tickets do so at no cost because of advertising.

Salem City Schools athletic director Matt Freeman

Salem sold more than 600 senior citizen passes for sporting events last season. Currently, Salem sells regular-season tickets at $5 each to help streamline the cash process.

“I don’t foresee us, at least in the next few years, getting rid of paper tickets all together,” Freeman says. “To me, it just doesn’t make sense knowing our community.”

Salem hosts volleyball and basketball tournaments at its high school and has been a neutral site for playoff football games and postseason track and field events. Partnering with HomeTown Tickets made sense as Freeman wanted “to be consistent throughout our regular season moving into the tournament.”

“I think it’s just another option for people in the online world,” he says.  

High school athletic departments generate revenue through ticket sales, but limited seating capacities have hindered schools like Salem as Freeman says few fans at football games sharply cut his revenues. 

Banfield says Poland generates anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 in ticket sales from middle school to varsity football games. The district lost out on gates where Poland’s Dave Pavlansky Field could have been to capacity with high school games against Struthers, Boardman or Canfield. 

“It was a real eye opener this fall,” says Banfield, who says Poland only received $17,000 in football ticket sales.

Tim Stried, director of communication for the OHSAA, says HomeTown Ticketing allows his organization to access ticket revenue in real time, rather than waiting for host sites to process reports and payments. He adds the OHSAA encourages its members schools to utilize HomeTown Ticketing for regular-season contests, not just the postseason. 

Stried says he thinks online ticketing “will be the standard moving forward.”

Banfield says he will evaluate the online process after the basketball season. Poland does not have a contract with HomeTown Ticketing. The school system uses the online ticketing system through the OHSAA postseason process, but “would like to incorporate it at all high school events first.”

When someone purchases a ticket online they have to be verified through an email account, which Banfield can add to his mailing list for future information on scheduling.

Once other fans, not just parents or even students, are allowed to attend games, Banfield says he could put a code in place for them to purchase tickets. Football fans could have the opportunity to go online and select their reserved seat for the season or an individual game, just as people do through outlets like Ticketmaster.

“There’s really neat things that you can do to customize it for Poland athletics,” Banfield says.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.