Tulsa-area parents man concession stands, raise big bucks for marching bands
BY MIKE BROWN World Staff Writer
Thursday, October 18, 2012
10/18/12 at 7:25 AM
Rosita Bailey, Tony Harrison and Marla Royer are among the first to arrive at Union-Tuttle Stadium before a Union Redskins home football game.
They are usually there long before the school's Renegade Regiment marching band uses the empty stadium to walk through that night's program.
They come early and stay late, members of the management team that runs concessions for the Union Band Boosters.
Royer is the team's accountant, Harrison is in charge of food purchases and Bailey recruits and organizes the 37 volunteers she said are necessary to keep the concession lines running smoothly during a varsity football game.
Bailey has had the job for two years, and her roster doesn't stop at 37 names. She'll need other volunteers to cover high school and junior varsity football games during the week and pee wee football games on Saturdays.
Under their agreement with Union Public Schools, the band boosters will handle concessions for virtually every event conducted in the stadium for the entire year.
That included the All-State football game in July and last Saturday's Renegade Review, when roughly 20 bands from four states marched and performed and attracted thousands of spectators.
On any given Friday - or on Thursday night, as is the case this week - hundreds more like Bailey, Harrison and Royer will volunteer their time in high school concessions stands across northeastern Oklahoma.
They'll dispense food items, operate cash registers, slice pizzas, prepare hot dogs and sandwiches, stock and restock depleted soft drink refrigerators, brew coffee, prepare hot chocolate and do dozens of other jobs.
They volunteer to support their kids' school activities and they do it for the camaraderie they develop with others like themselves.
"I teasingly tell people I'm off to my second job," says Royer, a Union Public Schools employee. "But it doesn't feel like a second job because it's also a good way to meet the other band parents, and it gives us something in common."
It's also good business. One organizer said his group annually netted about $40,000 from football concessions for that school's band program. And while most contacted for this report were reluctant to discuss such figures, it's fair to think the other large venues - Broken Arrow, Owasso, Jenks and Sand Springs, for example - are profiting on a similar scale.
Even some of the smaller schools around northeastern Oklahoma reported yearly profits of $10,000 and $20,000 - all money benefiting a school's marching band, athletic department, cheerleaders or other activities.
The potential gains seem enormous, but so do the pains. Most organizations take on football concessions with the understanding that they, like Union's group, will cover every event in the stadium for the entire year.
That may include soccer matches, track meets and other spring activities - not to mention the rare concert. It means Bailey and her volunteer army are not on the hook for a five-game home football schedule but a six- to nine-month calendar.
Band organizations run the largest operations around Green Country for at least two reasons. One is the large number of volunteers necessary for such a venture. Another is the immense cost of supporting a large school district's entire instrumental music program from seventh to 12th grades, making band booster groups uniquely committed to the undertaking.
"Our organization is involved in every aspect of the musical program," said Tandy Hollingsworth, concessions manger for the Broken Arrow Band Parents Association.
For a varsity football game such as Thursday's when the Tigers host Edison, Broken Arrow concessions will sell an average of 3,000 bottled drinks, 500 soft pretzels and 400 orders of nachos, not to mention another 200 to 300 Chick-fil-A sandwiches (a big seller in stadiums across the metro area) and several Papa John's pizzas.
Hollingsworth said he will need 50 people to keep the home and visitors-side concessions stands running smoothly. Filling his roster for a season's worth of assignments becomes a never-ending proposition. The good news is that with upwards of 500 band parents, no organization in the Broken Arrow district has a larger reservoir of potential volunteers.
"The responsibility of football concessions is not one to be taken lightly," Broken Arrow Athletic Director Ken Ellett said. "If another group was willing to make that kind of commitment, we might look at it. But over the years, our band parents have been the group with the manpower and the willingness to get the job done."
Ellett said smaller booster groups within the BA district derive income off concessions at their respective sporting venues - basketball, wrestling and baseball, for example. At Jenks, where band parents took over football concessions three years ago, smaller groups can join the band effort for a cut of the profits.
Booster proceeds cover a wide range of lesser expenses, not to mention the enormous burden of putting the band on the road. Imagine the cost of sending 260 members of Broken Arrow's nationally renowned "Pride of Broken Arrow" band to Pasadena, Calif., to play in the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day.
And many of the larger bands will make up to two trips per year. The Pride returns to Indianapolis next month to defend its 2011 title in the Bands of America Grand National Championships. That competition is Nov. 7-10 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Owasso, Jenks, Union, Berryhill and Stillwater bands are headed this weekend to compete in the Bands of America Super Regional in St. Louis.
Band parents often face fees of $1,000 or more per student to offset travel costs. But in many organizations, parents are able to work off some or all of those fees as concession volunteers.
While many booster groups are involved in numerous fundraising ventures throughout the year, most agree that football concessions are undeniably the No. 1 provider.
"It's an amazing game-changer. No other activity comes close," said Brent Hagar, concessions vice president for the Jenks Band Parents Club.
Six years ago, when Hagar moved his family from North Texas, Jenks football concessions were run by volunteers overseen by assistant athletic director Tommy Burns. Hagar had a better idea. He got it while his eldest daughter played in the band at Flower Mound (Texas) Marcus High School.
"The (Marcus) band parents had the football concessions and it seemed to work out well for them. I wondered why we couldn't do the same thing," Hagar said.
He became instrumental in convincing Jenks superintendent Kirby Lehman that putting the Jenks parents in charge would benefit everyone.
"We want to convey our sincere appreciation to Dr. Lehman and the Jenks school system for the opportunity. Without it, things were really painful," Hagar said.
At your service
Average prices for popular items at high school football concessions venues:
Popular concessions vary with weather
Bottled water and soft drinks are among the largest sellers in football concession stands across northeastern Oklahoma - at least until the weather changes.
"When it gets cold, everybody wants hot chocolate, and I mean everybody," said Tandy Hollingsworth, concessions manager for the Broken Arrow Parent Association.
The Tigers had their first cold-weather game hosting Jenks on Oct. 5, and ran through 2,000 plastic foam cups, Hollingsworth said.
Demand was so great that the devices used for heating water to mix the hot chocolate couldn't keep the pace, Hollingsworth said. Extra batches had to be mixed and stored in five-gallon thermos containers.
Owasso fans will go through around 3,000 bottled drink products in an average night, Rams concession manager Brad Tracy said.
Union's managers so underestimated the need for drink products for the school's annual Gridiron Classic in August that they had to order many extra cases on the fly from the nearby Sam's Club.
Blue Powerade (mountain berry blast), a Coca-Cola product, is also a big Union seller. Union, Broken Arrow and Jenks have beverage contracts with Coke while Owasso and the Tulsa Public Schools have Pepsi contracts.
Aside from the standard fare at most concessions stands (nachos, popcorn, hot dogs), many of the stadiums order specialty items provided by other vendors. Chick-fil-A sandwiches are popular across the area. Owasso will sell an average of 350 in a varsity game, not to mention turkey legs and pulled pork sandwiches from Trails End Barbecue & Grill.
- By Mike Brown, World Staff Writer
Various groups run concessions
Not every school district has a long-term agreement with its band parents to run football concessions.
Wagoner's athletic department handles its varsity football concessions and nets about $15,000 annually. Band parents handle junior high and junior varsity games, and the drama department is paid $1,000 annually to clean the stadium.
The Tulsa Public Schools accepts bids and awards contracts on each of its five high school stadiums and the Carver Middle School facility. Any entity meeting Board of Education criteria may bid, TPS athletic director Gil Cloud said.
Entities must agree to handle concessions for all events in the stadium for the entire academic year. TPS receives at least a 20-percent cut from each stadium, collects the proceeds into a communal pie and sends it back to the nine high schools in one-ninth slices.
Current TPS concessionaires include Booker T. Washington football boosters (S.E. Williams); Memorial Band Parents (LaFortune); East Central soccer boosters (East Side Sports Complex); McLain football boosters (McLain); and Webster Parent Teacher Student Association (Webster-Milton).
At Verdigris, several booster groups combine efforts in operating the concession stand and share the revenues.
- By Mike Brown
Original Print Headline: Banding together
Mike Brown 918-581-8390
Robert Poole (left), the father of a former Broken Arrow band member who graduated last year, takes a popcorn order in the concession area before the Jenks-Broken Arrow football game in Broken Arrow on Oct. 5. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Hot dogs sizzle at the Union-Broken Arrow football game at Union last month. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Customers stand at the Union concessions stand at the Union-Broken Arrow football game. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World