21 Aug 2014
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Where Has All The Pep In Prep Gone?

High School football still the best and affordable game in town.

Where Has All The Pep In Prep Gone?

Long have gone the days when was filled to its capacity of 6,500 screaming fans, when fans would chant across the field with who had more spirit, or boosters putting on a large block party in the parking lot before the football game.

It’s been nearly two decades since former coaches and players recall the stadium being sold out. The 1991 Hazen versus Renton All-City Championship game with the winner advancing to the state playoffs had both stands bursting from the seams and along the fence line, back when when fans could cross from side to side.

Renton Stadium is the third largest (6,500 total capacity) in the Puget Sound area (Seattle Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center ranks largest at 11,925 and Everett Memorial Stadium takes second at 9,000). Many school districts in the Puget Sound region have seen similar drops in attendance; however, many don’t track stadium attendance. Actual attendance numbers are kept by ticket sales, but don’t account for students or league pass holers who get in for free.

Those with attendance increases are schools with successful football teams (Skyline and Eastlake), or whose community continues to support football, such as Mount Si (Snoqualmie), Enumclaw, or heavily supported private schools.

School Superintendent Dr. Mary Alice Heuschel makes it a priority to see every inter-city football game in person. She also attends at least one game of each sport at each of the three schools, including the fine arts.

“I hope we can get the word out to the graduates within the community we have improved the stadium through the bond that voters approved in 2008,” said Heuschel.

Last year’s average number of tickets sold per football game, including playoffs, was 599. The lowest number of tickets sold for a single game was 249, the highest 907. Playoffs draw the largest crowds next to Homecomings and inter-city games. The lowest attended games are non-league or weaker opponent teams.

Many community members, including current Renton City Council President Terri Briere who graduated in 1969, remember a packed stadium.

"The stands were always at least three-quarters full every game," Briere said. "I started going in junior high with friends and rarely missed a football or basketball game at home. We often had school pep rally assemblies and always had a dance in the cafeteria afterward.”

Former Principal and head football coach Rick Stubrud remembers well the days when the stadium crowd roared and built up excitement for the home team and the players on the field.

“When the stadium was packed with students and community, it generates excitement. Players and coaches enjoy it giving a sense of 'home field advantage' and a sense of ‘we're behind you’ sentiment," he said.

Stubrud, currently the athletic director at Archbishop Murphy, led the Highlanders to their first playoff appearance after beating Renton 21-20 in overtime in 1991. Students packed into school busses — with the community not far behind — to Bellingham, then Olympia and finally to the semi-finals at the Tacoma Dome. The team did the same in 1992.

“The community members I know are proud of their respective schools and, in my opinion, the high schools are community symbols. Athletic competition can bring the business community together, but more importantly – neighborhoods,” Stubrud said.

The Renton community has seen change over the last two decades in its diversity and lifestyles are believed to be the biggest factors to the decline. The school district has seen an increase in ethnicities, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Report Card. Records date back to October 1998.

All three high schools have seen swings in diversity with the drop in the number of white students attending. Lindbergh has seen a significant drop from 66.9 percent in 2008 to 39.6 percent in 2010. Renton has seen also seen a similar drop, but an increase in Hispanic students (3.9% in 2008 to 15.9% in 2010). Renton also has a large African American, Asian and Pacific Islander population.

Hazen, the district’s largest high school of 1,467 students in 2010 also has the largest white student population at 51.3 percent, down from 71.3 percent in 1998. Hazen also has a large Asian and Pacific Islander population.

“With the diversity of the student body, many come from backgrounds that are not familiar with our school systems, much less our sports or school spirit, says Dave Lutes former Kentwood football head coach and now Kent School District Athletic Director. “Students are now required to work after school and on weekends to save for college or help support their families. Some students are involved in Running Start College classes, IB programs, AP classes and have a more rigorous academic schedule requiring study time in the evenings.”

Football games also used to be Friday nights only, now games are Thursdays or Saturdays.

“We see an overload of games played at multi-high school stadiums (i.e. Kent,  Renton, Auburn, and Federal Way) non-Friday games do not draw as many fans as a Friday night game,” Lutes said.

“I still say it’s the best entertainment in town,” he added.

 

Just how affordable is high school football to watch? Here is the breakdown for a family of four (two adults, two children):

Renton Memorial Stadium

Four Tickets, Four hot dogs, 4 drinks, large popcorn ($31) parking is free

 

University of Washington Football vs. California

Tickets - $187.49

Parking - $13.00

Four hot dogs, 4 drinks, large popcorn (*food info prices not available)

 

Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals

Tickets - $260.76

Parking - $26.00

Four hot dogs, 4 drinks, large popcorn (*food info prices not available)

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