The long-established perk of allowing Booster Club members free admission to regular-season home athletic events at Riverside-Brookfield High School will not change this year after all.
On Sept. 13, in a defeat for school board president Matt Sinde, the District 208 school board voted 5 to 2 to establish a policy of free admission for Booster Club members this year.
Sinde and board member Mike Welch cast the only votes against the policy of free admission for Boosters Club members.
“The high school is the pinnacle of social events in this town,” said board member Laura Hruska, who voted in favor of Tim Walsh’s motion to formalize the policy of free admission to Booster Club members for this school year. “The more we charge people to come, the less they will come.”
Hruska said that charging Booster Club members would just create anger and upset the community. It could also destroy the good will the district will need when it comes to the voters again to ask them to pass a referendum, she said.
Booster Club President Gary Zeleny, who read a statement earlier during the school board meeting opposing the plan to charge admission to Booster Club members, said after the vote that he was pleased the board decided to continue to let Booster Club members in free.
Zeleny said the Booster Club would begin to recruit members, although he noted that school registration is the easiest time to sign up members.
“It’s going to be hard to get back up to where we were last year,” Zeleny said.
This summer, school officials told Booster Club co-president Eric Duve that the school would charge admission to Booster Club members.
When that idea got a negative reaction, it was suggested to Duve that the school could continue to let Booster Club members in free, but the school wanted to be reimbursed for every member who got in free.
In response, Booster Club leadership decided not to recruit members this year, saying that charging admission would dissuade many from joining the club.
Sinde said he opposed free admission for Booster Club members, because the school is in a tough financial situation and needs revenue.
“In tight money times you’ve got to think, ‘Where am I going to get the revenue?'” Sinde said before the vote.
Sinde and Welch had asked in 2010 for information about how much revenue the school was losing because of free admission to Booster Club members.
Sinde said that he made a mistake in joining Superintendent Kevin Skinkis, Principal Pamela Bylsma and Athletic Director Art Ostrow at the meeting with Duve this summer to talk about a new policy.
“I never said I was representing the board, although I can see how it might be assumed like that,” Sinde said. “It was my mistake.”
After the Sept. 13 school board meeting, Sinde was philosophical about his defeat on the issue, but said the policy may need to be re-addressed next year.
“The board has spoken for right now,” Sinde said. “I think we need to look at it for next year and find out what we want to do.”
Zeleny said that the attempt to charge admission surprised him and caused a lot of bad feelings.
“It totally took us off guard,” Zeleny said. “We weren’t prepared. It’s a whole calamity of errors that got us to this point now, but we’re still functioning.”
Zeleny said that he would look to Ostrow to help recruit Booster Club members.
“It’s the athletic director’s job to get these people to come to Boosters,” Zeleny said.