Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs High School sports face budget shortfall


2009-10 Athletic budget

Tier 1 sports are those that receive school district funding to cover the costs of supplies, materials and entry fees. The cost per player reflected below includes money provided by the district, the high school’s athletic department and the Steamboat Springs Booster Club

Sport Participants* Cost

Boys basketball 20 $726.67

Boys soccer 45 $305.87

Cross Country 12 $489.42

Football 54 $546.66

Girls basketball 22 $604.23

Girls soccer 41 $316.58

Track and field 43 $495.36

Volleyball 50 $360.32

Wrestling 10 $576.10

Speech 11 $874.17

Tier 2 sports are those that don’t receive school district funding to cover the costs of supplies, materials and entry fees. Tier 2 sports are paid for by the Booster Club, individual student-athlete participation fees, fundraising and donations. The cost per player reflected below includes money provided by the high school’s athletic department and Booster Club.

Sport Participants* Cost

Boys tennis 24 $453.36

Girls tennis 46 $259.26

Cheerleading 22 $230.37

Alpine ski team 30 $166.54

Nordic ski team 8 $495.38

Boys lacrosse 66 $160.64

Girls lacrosse 18 $198.40

Hockey 23 $515.24

Golf 18 $381.10

Softball 12 $316.37

Baseball 18 $445.38 *2009-10 school year

Per player

Criteria for moving from Tier 1 to Tier 2

The sport is no longer sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association.

■ The Program no longer addresses/fits with the existing guidelines for gender equity opportunity for males and females.

■ Student participation declines to an unsatisfactory level (i.e. participation numbers as reported to CHSAA decline to a level dictating the inability to field a team or participation is less than 50 percent of levels necessary to field a varsity team).

■ Securing qualified coaches becomes impossible.

■ Adequate facilities and resources no longer exist.

■ Scheduling of contests and competitions at the local or regional level becomes impossible.

■ Administrative supervision of the sport becomes unreasonable in relationship to other sports.

■ Costs related to providing the sport become unreasonable in relationship to other sports.

■ Inappropriate actions are made by the athletes, coaches, parents or community.

■ There are other opportunities for students to access the sport.

■ Feeder programs and or national statistics for participation indicate a decline in participation for the sport.

■ Competent, certified officials are unavailable or inaccessible or only available in a cost prohibitive manner.

■ League scheduling of sport would determine timing of deletion of sport to honor commitments.

■ Overall expenditures exceed reasonable “per student” cost for sport.

— There is a harsh reality looming for sports at Steamboat Springs High School.

Simply put, the game — and the way it’s paid for — is changing.

Budget shortfalls have already forced the Steamboat Springs School District to cut nearly $1.9 million from its 2010-11 budget. State funding has decreased by 6.5 percent. Gifts from the Education Fund Board decreased more than $433,000, and $1 million in budget cuts are anticipated for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. District staffing has either been cut or reduced by 34 staff positions.

The cuts also are making their way into the high school’s athletic department, which faces a $16,000 shortfall this year alone. Administrators, the Steamboat Springs Booster Club and families are starting to feel the pinch.

Six coaching positions have been eliminated. Girls softball won’t be around next year, girls lacrosse will be self-funded, and participation fees for all student-athletes and their families are set to increase.

The sheer number of sports offered in Steamboat pose a significant financial challenge to the district and the high school athletic department. The issue has left district officials wondering what can be done to make sports here sustainable.

Tier 1 to Tier 2

Wrestling provides an example of the past, present and perhaps future of Steamboat sports. Once an overpowering and incredibly popular program, wrestling recently was moved from Tier 1 status to Tier 2 status.

In the Steamboat Springs School District, sports are divided into two tiers. Tier 1 sports are ones for which coaches salaries are paid for by the district. Tier 2 sports pay their coaches through student-athlete participation fees. The district signs the checks for Tier 2 coaching salaries and transportation and is then reimbursed by the high school’s activity account.

Tier 1 sports include basketball, soccer, cross-country, football, track and field and volleyball. Tier 2 sports and activities are wrestling, speech, tennis, cheerleading, skiing, lacrosse, hockey, golf and baseball.

Wrestling was dropped from its Tier 1 status because of low participation numbers the past several years. It wasn’t an arbitrary decision. There are 14 guidelines that stipulate how a Tier 1 sport could be dropped to Tier 2 sport, most of which deal with student participation and cost of the sport.

This year, the high school athletic department had to pay $115,030 for Tier 2 coaching salaries as well as Tier 1 and Tier 2 transportation and administrative costs.

The school collected $74,000 in participation fees from students and their families in 2009-10, and another $24,000 was provided by the Booster Club. That has left about $16,000 for the athletic department to somehow make up.

Both Tier 1 and Tier 2 athletes pay participation fees.

The district pays Tier 1 coaching salaries and Tier 1 white budgets. A white budget is used by programs to buy uniforms, supplies and equipment, and to pay entry fees.

The size of each team’s white budget differs, but each gets between $700 and $1,600. All white budgets will be reduced by 10 percent for the upcoming school year. Football had the biggest white budget this year at $5,939.

For Tier 2 teams, white budgets generally are paid for by the Booster Club, as well as through individual sports fees, fundraising and donations.

As recently as two years ago, Tier 1 and Tier 2 sports essentially broke down to funded and unfunded sports.

That changed in connection to concerns about team transportation and the safety of students. A group of parents worked with the district to secure some Tier 2 funding. Transportation for teams in both tiers now is paid for by the Booster Club and through participation fees. Participation fees are $150 per athlete per sport and are capped at $350 for a family.

“At that point in time that was something that needed to get fixed,” said Nancy Mucklow, one of the parents who pushed to get funding for Tier 2 sports. “It was the perfect storm. Everybody came together and said we can solve this. It was a really smart way keep all of our kids in athletics.”

Too many sports, activities?

Steamboat certainly offers a plethora of sports activities for students. And somehow all those activities have to be paid for, Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman said.

Consider Cherry Creek High School, a school of 3,600 students that offers 24 sports. Steamboat Springs High School, with an enrollment of 643 students, offers 20 sports.

“I think that’s our main thing is to try and do other stuff and avoid trying to cut sports,” Steamboat Ath­letic Director Luke DeWolfe said. “I think the benefits of sports are pretty well documented. Kids typically have a higher grade-point average and do better in school when they play sports.”

But having so many sports can be tough on a district. The Steamboat Springs Booster Club funds 28 sports and other extracurricular activities at the school. This year, the Booster Club contributed $68,000, including the $24,000 it donated to help the high school athletic department try to meet its budget.

Steamboat’s not the only school to offer that many programs and struggle with funding as a result. Aspen and Summit County high schools offer roughly the same number of sports, and each has a student enrollment similar to Steamboat’s.

Neither school has a tiered system, but both are going through budget reductions.

In Aspen, officials are putting a hold on the softball program and won’t be adding any new sports. In Summit, to meet a 5 percent budget cut to athletics and activities, the school is cutting the boys swim and dive team and the girls tennis program.

Summit Athletic Director Amy Raymond said her school probably offers too many sports given its size. With more budget cuts predicted in the future, Raymond said districts will have to get more creative.

“This year, there were such severe cuts we had to cut back on a couple sports,” she said. “It’s not that I’m for cutting sports, but it’s something where you might have to cut a sport and that might make you stronger in another one. It’s quantity versus quality.”

The Eagle County School District, which includes Western Slope League participants Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain, may provide an example of how athletics can be self-sustaining.

Each school offers between 12 and 15 sports. Generally, if a sport isn’t offered at Eagle Valley, it’s offered at Battle Mountain, and vice versa.

Mike Gass, Eagle County’s executive director of student services and innovative programs, said despite the budget crunch, sports in Eagle County are thriving.

“Cutting any athletics hasn’t even been in the discussion,” Gass said. “Coaching salaries, however, may take a little bit of a freeze or a hit.”

What’s next?

With more planned budget cuts in the future, DeWolfe and Taulman said the last option is to cut sports. But each acknowledges that it may eventually come to that.

“You have to look at it,” Taulman said. “With more cuts, do you cut activities and athletics, or do you cut academics? It’s tough in this economy.”

The $16,000 athletic department budget shortfall this year will be paid for by the school’s activity fund. That fund is generated through gate revenue and the sale of activity passes, and it generally covers miscellaneous costs such as game officials, trainer supplies, weight room maintenance, gate workers, extra equipment and ambulance services at football games.

DeWolfe said he will coordinate with the Booster Club to find ways to increase revenue. He said that includes trying to sell more apparel, increasing advertising sales and possibly becoming a Nike Team School, for which Nike would pay Steamboat to use only its apparel and equipment. The contract could be worth $12,000 throughout three years.

The Booster Club also is working with each individual sport to put together fundraisers to help with the budget. The Booster Club was able to provide $24,000 to the high school athletic department because of a surplus from past years.

“What this Booster Club is able to do is phenomenal in comparison to other areas,” said Laurie Manning, the group’s treasurer. “I had never seen numbers like this before in my life. It’s a testament to the community we live in.”

Despite the shortfall and anticipated cuts in the future, all remained confident that sports in Steamboat will be a fixture in the future.

“Hopefully all those things come together to ensure the long-term effectiveness and stability of where we’re at,” DeWolfe said. “Regardless of what condition our economy is in, hopefully we can get to a point where we can sustain our athletics regardless of what happens with district money.”


Wayne Eller 6 years, 11 months ago

How can STEAMBOAT spend all that MONEY on walking trails, skate parks and other unnecessary things and then cut funding of our education?? I am sure that our " ELECTED " has their priorities way out of order!!!! If you agree, please let it be known here.


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