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June 27, 2013

Victory Bell to move from Memorial Stadium

Money issue means game relocating to North, South fields on rotating basis

TERRE HAUTE — Since the early 1970s, the North/South Victory Bell football game has been played at Indiana State University’s Memorial Stadium.

But that long-standing tradition is drawing to a close, primarily for financial reasons, Vigo County School Corp. officials said Wednesday.

Starting this year, the Victory Bell football game will be played at the two high schools on a rotating basis. This year, North Vigo will be the host site.

Also under consideration is moving the annual North/South boys and girls basketball  games out of Hulman Center, although negotiations are under way with Hulman Center officials.

The biggest reason is a financial one, said Stacy Mason, executive director of secondary education. The school district athletic programs don’t receive any concession stand money from the North/South competitions at Memorial Stadium and Hulman Center.

The VCSC athletic council, which includes high school principals and athletic directors, has discussed the fact that “we lose out on concessions altogether,” Mason said.

Superintendent Dan Tanoos estimates “we’re talking about thousands and thousands (of dollars) from concessions.”

By having the games at North and South, the athletic programs will benefit from those concession dollars. Those funds are used for such things as uniforms, equipment, supplies for athletic trainers and charter buses for some of the out-of-county games.

ISU “has been fabulous to work with” in use of Memorial Stadium and Hulman Center, Mason said.

But moving the Victory Bell game back to VCSC facilities “is financially the right thing for us to do at this time,” Tanoos said. “It’s a business move on our part.” The district won’t be paying rent, and athletic programs will benefit from the concession dollars.

The school district pays $1,468 to rent Memorial Stadium and $5,500 for Hulman Center during the cross-town rivalry games, which both draw thousands of fans.

The VCSC athletic programs do take in gate receipts at the respective games.

Portable bleachers from other sites would be placed at the end zones at North and South football fields for the Victory Bell games.

“We think we can handle the numbers,” Mason said. Memorial Stadium can handle 12,000 people; typically the stadium is crowded, but not full, for the North/South game.

Principals, coaches and athletic directors are excited about having the games at their own schools, she said. “I think students and athletes will like it.”

The ISU athletics office schedules use of Memorial Stadium.

John Sherman, ISU senior assistant athletics director, said he’s not had any contact with the school district this year related to the North/South football game except for an email “awhile ago in which they were saying they were thinking about doing this,” (moving the game from Memorial Stadium to North and South).

ISU normally does charge a rental fee for use of the stadium, which was reduced for the Vigo County School Corp. a few years ago, he said.

He noted that concessions at both Memorial Stadium and Hulman Center are handled by Sodexo, as part of its contract with the university. “We do get a percentage of the sales back from our [athletic] events,” Sherman said.

The North/South game “is a very big event for the entire community, and we’d love to have it at our facility,” Sherman said. “We think it’s a different atmosphere” at a college stadium.

“We get great crowds of 9,000 or 10,000 people, but we understand the economics of it,” Sherman said. “We’ll continue to move on.”

ISU has rented the stadium for a few high school football games involving other districts this year, he said.

As far as moving the North/South basketball games out of Hulman Center, that remains under negotiation, Mason said. Hulman Center representatives are working with the district to see if the district could secure more funding through concessions.

Jennifer Cook, business manager for Hulman Center, said Wednesday, “We are in negotiations with them. We absolutely would love to continue those high school games in our building and we are working to come up with an agreeable solution.”

Mason noted that last year, the North/South basketball games at Hulman Center generated $13,000 in gate receipts. Between 1999 and last year, gate receipts have fluctuated between $11,000 and $16,000 each year.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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