After yr within the pink, MPA banking on massive turnout for basketball tourney


The Augusta Civic Middle is among the websites for the 2022 Maine highschool basketball match, which begins later this week. Final yr’s match was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The company that oversees highschool sports activities in Maine took a big monetary hit final yr due to the coronavirus pandemic and hopes the return of the highschool basketball match will assist shore up its funds.

By the tip of the week, the match will get underway at arenas in Portland, Augusta and Bangor. The occasion has been the spotlight of Maine’s highschool sports activities calendar for many years, with many followers driving hours to see their groups in motion. Final winter the match was canceled in response to the pandemic.

The annual basketball match is the financial engine that drives the nonprofit Maine Principals’ Affiliation. A nasty climate day or two that impacts journey can put a dent in ticket gross sales that the company feels the remainder of the yr, in accordance with Mike Burnham, government director of the MPA’s Interscholastic Division.

Poor attendance on the match has a ripple impact. With out adequate earnings from the occasion, the MPA would battle to fund championships in quite a lot of sports activities that generate a fraction of its income, equivalent to swimming, snowboarding, wrestling, and indoor observe and subject, Burnham stated. The company already had seen a gentle decline in income from its postseason occasions for a number of years earlier than the pandemic hit.

The MPA suffered a $237,180 loss for the fiscal yr of July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, in accordance with its newest federal tax submitting. Its income from postseason occasions plunged from $1.5 million in 2019-20 to $375,696 in 2020-21. The MPA ended the fiscal yr with belongings of $861,000, decrease than in any of the 4 previous years.

The shortage of a basketball match was the chief purpose for the losses – making a 2022 match with strong attendance so crucial not just for the MPA’s ledger, however for a lot of different highschool championships as effectively. The principals’ affiliation hosts almost 20 tournaments and/or state championships throughout a typical college yr, a lot of them largely fueled by income from the basketball match.

Postseason tournaments account for roughly 80 % of the group’s income, Burnham stated. The basketball match accounts for half of that, usually bringing in $700,000 to $750,000 in annual income. After bills for renting arenas and placing on the match, that nets simply over $300,000 in a typical yr.

Due to the pandemic, the MPA held championships solely through the spring season in 2020-21, together with golf within the fall. Within the spring of 2020, your complete highschool sports activities season was shut down after the pandemic hit.

“We went a whole yr with out income, nevertheless it was damaged into two fiscal years. We had the basketball match in ’19-’20. That was our final match,” Burnham stated. “That yr we have been OK, even dropping the spring, as a result of we had introduced in half our income by basketball. Final yr, not having the autumn or winter, that’s the place you noticed the numerous loss.”

Whereas final yr’s drop in income was dramatic, the MPA’s earnings from gate receipts and merchandising at postseason occasions declined by almost 25 % within the 5 years from 2015-16 to 2019-20.

“It looks like we’ve been involved about declining attendance at tournaments for some time, now – particularly right here within the southern a part of the state,” stated Andrew Dolloff, Yarmouth’s superintendent of colleges. “The pandemic definitely hasn’t helped, however I’m hopeful that when this well being disaster is over, and everybody feels protected to collect in public once more, there will probably be renewed power round neighborhood actions like highschool tournaments.”

John Suttie, the superintendent of RSU 23 and principal at Previous Orchard Seashore Excessive Faculty, agreed that the regular drop in match income is troubling. However he expects to see massive crowds at basketball match websites this winter after a yr away.

“There’s no method to recoup what was misplaced. Companies throughout the nation, nonprofit and revenue, felt that. I feel the crowds this yr will come again,” Suttie stated. “I actually really feel like we’re at a spot the place we’re growing quite a lot of good future faculty basketball gamers on the girls and boys aspect. I feel folks wish to get out and see some nice basketball.”

This yr’s highschool basketball match begins this week with preliminary video games and Class AA quarterfinals at highschool gyms earlier than all video games transfer to bigger arenas on Friday. State championship video games are set for the weekend of March 4-5. The Class B state video games will probably be March 4 at Cross Insurance coverage Middle in Bangor. On March 5, the Class A and AA championships will probably be held at Cross Insurance coverage Area in Portland, whereas the Class C and D championships will probably be held the identical day on the Augusta Civic Middle.

Because the omicron variant fueled a spike in COVID-19 circumstances throughout the state this winter, there was concern the basketball match is perhaps performed with out followers within the stands – or even perhaps canceled once more. Watching how athletic administrators throughout the state managed and juggled their schedules to make sure the common season was accomplished supplied a hopeful signal for Burnham and his colleagues.

Mike Burnham is government director of the Maine Principals’ Affiliation’s Interscholastic Division. “We’re cautiously optimistic that so long as the climate cooperates and we will proceed to maneuver in the appropriate route, we could have tournaments like we’ve had previously, and the income that comes with them,” he says. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“It’s a kind of issues that’s at all times there, that you just’re at all times anxious about it taking a flip and never having the ability to maintain these occasions and have the tournaments. It might be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that’s been a priority,” Burnham stated. “On the similar time, recognizing the job colleges throughout the entire state have carried out with this with the common season. Having to cancel video games and reschedule video games, coping with shutdowns, everyone deserves an enormous thanks for his or her effort.”

Stripped of an essential income stream through the pandemic, the principals’ affiliation did what many nonprofits and companies did to outlive. Two Payroll Safety Plan loans from the federal Small Enterprise Administration helped to subsidize salaries for the MPA’s employees of six staff. The primary, for $91,783, was obtained in April 2020. A second mortgage of $92,772 was obtained in February 2021.

Burnham stated nobody in his group has obtained a elevate for the reason that pandemic started. Burnham’s wage for the 2020-21 fiscal yr was $114,132. Holly Couturier, the manager director for MPA’s skilled division was paid $103,453.  With skilled conferences canceled or postponed, journey budgets have been lower.

The MPA additionally took out a line of credit score of $125,000, Burnham stated.

“We thought taking our a line of credit score made extra fiscal sense than taking the cash out of the investments that have been out there,” stated Burnham, whose group additionally supplies skilled growth alternatives for secondary educators throughout the state.

The MPA was not alone in its monetary predicament. In line with the Nationwide Federation of State Excessive Faculty Affiliation (NFHS), Maine is certainly one of 9 states that didn’t maintain a sanctioned highschool basketball match in 2021, together with Nevada, which canceled its complete season, Connecticut, Illinois, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Tara Bennett of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Affiliation estimated a lack of roughly $300,000 for her group. John Holt of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Convention declined to say how a lot income was misplaced, however 2022 would be the first time in two years the state will be capable of maintain basketball state championships.

“We didn’t have girls and boys basketball state tournaments in 2021 and so they have been lower quick in 2020. So, in 2022 we’ll be crowning state basketball champions for the primary time since 2019,” Holt stated.

Even states that held tournaments in 2021 noticed a monetary pinch. Vermont, for instance, held a basketball match with out followers. The Vermont Principals’ Affiliation noticed a lower in income of roughly $150,000, in accordance with Bob Johnson, the group’s affiliate government director. That was offset by a lower in bills of roughly $45,000, for an total lower of $105,000 from a typical basketball match, Johnson stated.

Together with its counterparts in New Hampshire and Vermont, the MPA has labored with TPG Advertising to extend sponsorships. As essential as these sponsors are, Burnham stated, they carry in roughly $100,000, a fraction of what the principals’ affiliation usher in through ticket gross sales. A streaming contract with WHOU, a Houlton-based radio station that broadcasts basketball regional semifinal and ultimate video games on its web site, in addition to a contract with Maine PBS to broadcast state championship video games, brings in added income. The NFHS divides income from its streaming service among the many members, Maine included.

Holding a basketball match is essential to the MPA’s earnings, nevertheless it hasn’t been a assure of ending the yr within the black. Whereas the 2020-21 fiscal yr’s losses have been the biggest in a while, they weren’t an outlier. In 2018-19, the principals’ affiliation misplaced $160,746. The earlier yr, it misplaced $90,819.

Caribou Excessive basketball followers traveled 300 miles to look at the Vikings win the Class B boys’ state championship in Portland in 2018. Carl D. Walsh/Employees Photographer

“If we’ve got inclement climate throughout our championships, that takes a big toll on the attendance. While you’re relying on 80 % of your earnings to be attendance related to ticket gross sales, it doesn’t take lengthy for that to be successful,” Burnham stated. “Definitely in case you get an excellent matchup, it’s going to herald a pleasant crowd, however not at all times. That’s simply the way in which that it falls.”

The MPA’s income from highschool tournaments has declined every year since 2015-16, when it was $1,998,381. By 2019-20, it was down nearly 25 % to $1,501,316. Burnham seems on the declining variety of excessive schoolers within the state total as an enormous purpose why.

“If there are fewer youngsters collaborating, there are fewer dad and mom, households and followers which may be attending the occasions,” Burnham stated.

Burnham is hopeful there are massive crowds, not only for basketball, however for the opposite tournaments and championships arising this winter.

“Since we got here again final spring after having a yr off, we noticed a number of the largest crowds we’ve ever seen. The folks have been so glad to be again to assist these youngsters,” Burnham stated. “We’re cautiously optimistic that so long as the climate cooperates and we will proceed to maneuver in the appropriate route, we could have tournaments like we’ve had previously, and the income that comes with them.”

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