Ticketed entry into sporting events needs elimination

Liam Geissler-Norseng

In order to enter most Atlanta Public Schools sporting events at the middle or high school level, students and their families must pay a fee to purchase tickets. This policy of paid admission is unfair to less fortunate students and their families, and it should be canceled immediately.

APS is not an affluent district. Over 45 percent of APS students have been identified as homeless, unaccompanied, receiving food stamps, living on welfare or living in foster care. Yet, APS still charges these students and their families a fee to enter school sporting events. It is inequitable and unjust to charge disadvantaged students 8 dollars to enter a football game when many of them get their only meals of the day from school. 

Across APS, football and basketball ticket sales combined generate around $400,000 annually. While this is not a small amount of money, it is minuscule compared to APS’s $1.6 billion budget and can certainly be allocated from other sources if it is truly essential.

Students are encouraged to spend their time doing safe, legal and productive activities, but charging students to enter sporting events does the opposite. Students who can’t afford tickets could be then encouraged to find another activity to participate in, and in a city like Atlanta, it’s easy for that activity to be something that is neither safe nor legal. Getting rid of paid entry would reinforce the message pushed by schools and be in the best interest of students’ health and safety.

For schools such as Midtown, school spirit has been a persistent issue in recent years. Since this policy does nothing but discourage students from attending games, it only further compounds the issue. While it can be argued that free admission might encourage students who don’t care about the games to come just to mess around, this is not a concern. School sporting events with ticketed entry already have a no-in-and-out policy, meaning that students who came to mess around would be stuck there if they wanted to be present. High schoolers aren’t known for their attention spans, and troublemakers would grow bored and leave.

An argument can also be made that a free admission policy might have too strong of an effect and overcrowd gyms, but this too is an illegitimate concern. With a capacity almost five times that of Midtown’s student population, Henderson Stadium is at no risk of overcrowding, and if too many spectators in the gym really becomes that much of a problem, APS can simply require students to bring a school ID to get in for free and charge other fans to get in. This would both allow students to get in, while also limiting the total number of fans to ensure a safe capacity.

To maintain an equitable stance, while also keeping the health and safety of its students in mind, APS should change its ticketed entry policy for school sporting events and allow students free admission. Although there are some perceived issues with this change, it would be a change in the best interest of all APS students.