More Mahoning Valley High Schools Opt for Online Tickets

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Ursuline High School Athletic Director John DeSantis says his school offered online tickets during the winter sports season of the 2020-21 school year – during the height of the pandemic.

During the regular season, high school athletic departments fill their coffers with ticket revenue.

For the postseason, ticket sales are handled by HomeTown Ticketing, which has partnered with the Ohio High School Athletic Association. The statewide organization keeps the profits from those gates.

HomeTown Ticketing, which was founded in 2016, has also facilitated revenue streams for some area schools.

“It’s just a streamlined process,” DeSantis says. “I have to give HomeTown Ticketing credit. They’ve been very user friendly. Customer service has been very good. Anytime there’s been any kind of issues, they’ve been readily available.”

HomeTown Ticketing provides a “streamlined process” for Ursuline High School sports.

Schools have websites where parents, other family members and casual fans can purchase e-tickets the same way you would concerts, professional sporting events or other things – presenting a QR code before entering a venue.

HomeTown Ticketing, which is based out of Columbus, offers a cashless option where tickets sales, attendance and revenue are automatically tabulated – avoiding cash transactions and other things that might lead to miscalculations.

About 40% of HomeTown Ticketing’s workforce is in Ohio, serving more than 2,800 high schools around the nation and over 400 in Ohio. More than 60 schools from high school to elementary in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana Counties use the service.

Lorien Luehrs, president and chief operating officer of HomeTown Ticketing, says there is a $1 processing fee for each ticket sale that goes to HomeTown Ticketing. Also, for each ticket sold there is a 2.9%, plus 30 cents charge, for each credit card transaction. These transactions are done through Stripe, which provides software to accept payments and manage businesses online. There are no costs for a school to sign up for Hometown Ticketing or annual fees.

There’s also a HomeTown Fan App found in the Apple Store or on Google Play to manage and find all of the school’s events on one spot.

The Columbus-based organization is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, running regular vulnerability checks.

“We really pride ourselves on compliance and accessibility,” Luehrs says.

However, that fee is too much for Boardman High School Athletic Director Marco Marinucci, whose school has a pay-to-participate system that costs $50 per sport and up to $200 for some families.

“Then, I’m adding $1.50 to every ticket they buy,” he says. “For volleyball players, that’s 22 games. That starts adding up.”

Boardman, which is one of the largest school systems in the Mahoning Valley, sold 110 student passes and at least one sport-specific season ticket pass, if not two, to every fall sports parent, Marinucci says.

He’s hoping that helps his athletic budget expand, not contract as it did in the 2020-21 school year with crowds cut down to a third of the capacity at football and basketball home games. Those two sports support the bulk of the school’s athletic revenue.

“That’s pretty good,” Marinucci says. “We’ll see how it affects my budget down the road. We’ll make adjustments when we need to.”

Ohio high school football teams played a shortened regular season due to the pandemic in 2020.
Boardman had two regular-season home games in 2020, including one against Ursuline that usually generates a large amount of revenue. Because of capacity limits, that game brought in almost $17,000 less than usual. The athletic department saw most of the 7,500 seats taken for its opener against Cardinal Mooney High School in August.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, this is awesome. We were getting back to normal,’ he says. “Everything you read and the cases in the 44512 Zip code are increasing every day. Where’s that going to lead us? I don’t know.

“If I take another hit like I did last year, we’re in deep trouble.”

Luhres says if an event is cancelled due to COVID or natural disaster, all fees are refunded – including the credit card processing fee.

Campbell Memorial High School Athletic Director Stacie Cepin says HomeTown Ticketing is a good option for her school, offering cash and credit card accessibility. The ticket office staff is trained to help people who are not internet-savvy. The school offers a fall sports pass for parents and alumni, along with other single-game tickets.

“With cashless, there’s less exchange of money between people,” Cepin says. “I do like the whole idea of it.

“Like anything, there’s a learning curve, especially for people that are really apprehensive about doing online things or internet stuff. We definitely want to accommodate everybody, but we’re not fully transitioned into that yet. We’re at least moving into that direction.”

With schools having online and in-person ticket options, purchasing tickets for away games can be confusing, DeSantis says.

“What’s the website to get on to find the tickets?” he says. “That’s kind of been the most confusing part in my opinion.

“In terms of the actual process, I think most people who have had some experience with it are comfortable with it.”

DeSantis says his school offers season passes for each of the fall sports, including soccer, volleyball and football. The online portal has a seating chart for Stambaugh Stadium for home football games, and ticket buyers use it when selecting seats.

He adds there was a 15% increase in season ticket sales for volleyball and soccer, while football jumped 30% over last year when crowds were limited to parents because of the surging pandemic.

Ursuline also offers in-person tickets for football games, along with live student ticket sales.

“We’re trying to appeal to everybody the best we can,” DeSantis says.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.