Golden ticket a goodwill gesture to the community

Oct. 31—For those who remember Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, there's a golden ticket available for Ector County residents 65 and older to get into all the Ector County ISD sporting events they want for free.

Executive Director of Athletics Tracey Borchardt said the golden ticket has been in the works for about a year now.

"We've had ticket sales going up and up and up with the number of people that we've had at our events and stuff and so looking at just covering the cost of everything that we need to cover and do. I found a couple of sponsors to help us out on taking care of the little bitty things when it came to the golden ticket. Then we just decided to talk to the school board and Dr. Muri about it and roll with it," Borchardt said.

"Luckily, they finally landed and we got the approvals to make sure we weren't breaking any UIL or rules or anything and we got the approval about eight weeks ago," she added.

The golden tickets were ordered, they arrived and the district announced it. Borchardt said it takes about two minutes to get processed for a golden ticket.

She added that they came across someone who will probably save $1,000 for the school year because their grandkids play multiple sports.

"They're going to things Tuesday nights, Friday nights, on the weekends. There are some people that are saving a lot of money in the long run," Borchardt said.

They also have retired educators who come out to the games.

She added that ECISD averages 30 to 40 events a week, especially when you take A and B teams, grade level teams and junior varsity and varsity squads into account.

"We've had volleyball, football, tennis, swimming, cross-country, all those are going on. Some of those we don't charge ... but when it comes to football and things at the stadium ... Adult tickets (at) $5 is the cheapest one you can get. Football is higher. It adds up pretty fast, so hopefully some people will be able to save some money and go enjoy the games," Borchardt said.

Gross athletic revenues were $621,715 in the 2022-23 year, Chief Financial Officer Deborah Ottmers said in an email. However, she said there are many expenses that more than offset that.

Non-payroll athletic expenses alone were $2,681,702 and payroll costs are on top of that, she wrote.

Non-payroll are costs are things such as officials, game workers that are not employees, uniform and equipment reconditioning, supplies and uniforms, travel costs, participation fees, awards and student insurance.

Ticket revenue goes into the general fund to pay for things like electricity, game officials and game workers. Every event is priced a little differently. Middle school events may only cost $1 or $2. Borchardt said she just hopes that pays for the officials.

It seems like athletics should make money.

"But the underlying cost of so many things, you don't realize how much money we spend. Just to host an event costs so much; transportation costs so much. We're running probably anywhere from $700,000 to 900,000 this year on transportation, in town and out of town. The only way you're going to make money is if you're someone like college or the NFL. Those tickets are $100 tickets (compared) to our $8 ticket, $7 ticket or $5 ticket," Borchardt said.

"Really, as long as we have a good crowd coming in, it takes care of itself. It's pretty breakeven. Officials are going up and up and up. Everything's going up higher and higher. We just know that those kids playing sports, for the most part it keeps them out of trouble, and the more family environment we can make it, we just want people out there," Borchardt said.

During an Oct. 11 news conference, Superintendent Scott Muri said while the golden ticket will cut into revenue, it's the right thing to do and he hopes to expand opportunities for the golden ticket over time.

"We're excited to be able to do this. I think from the kid perspective, we're going to see more people attending events and so I think that that'll be good for the kids. They'll enjoy that," Muri added.

Along with the golden ticket, Borchardt said they now livestream volleyball, basketball and football games.

"We have an app that you can put on your phone. ... Tuesday night we had the OHS-Permian ... volleyball game. You can watch it on your app. Some people save money that way as well," Borchardt said.

She added that the golden ticket helps build relationships with people that they see all the time.

"Now we can kind of put a name to a face. I stay at the stadium all the time, at all the games and so I'm able to recognize people and just remember and visit with them. That's what's fun to me, though, especially just getting to see that a lot of the same people that come to the events over and over. It's been a really good thing," Borchardt said.

A lot of times, she said, athletes may not have someone to watch them.

"We have over 4,000 kids competing in sports in the district. ... The OHS-Permian football game, that's (the) biggest event that we have. (We had) 18,000 people out there. There isn't anyplace else in Odessa that's going to have those kind of numbers. It's great. It's a win-win for us," Borchardt said.

She said the 4,000 doesn't include elementary gymnastics or sixth grade pre-athletics.

Borchardt said the golden ticket has been a lot of fun these past few weeks.

"We've seen a lot of people come through and pick up tickets and we're happy to see them. We want to continue doing that. And so on Tuesdays, the ticket window was open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. And then on Wednesdays (and) Thursdays, the ticket window is open from 8 a.m. to 12. They can just walk right up to the window right here (at the administration building) and do the transaction right through the window. There's a ticket sign. They walk right up to the window, show (their) driver's license, we document the card and off they go," Borchardt said.

Some people come inside the administration building, others go to the stadium or call to see what they need to do.

You may contact ECISD on the website, or the athletics office at 432-456-9059 to learn more.

Borchardt said they have seen other districts do something similar to the golden ticket. Since it was their first time trying it, ECISD started spreading the word through Facebook, Twitter and word of mouth.

"It speeds processes up as well and now people don't have to just sit down and figure out how to buy a ticket. ... The only game that really doesn't work for us is the OHS-Permian game, because it's reserved seating on both sides and I can't comp a ticket on a reserved seating-type deal," Borchardt said.

The officials also cost more for that game.

"Officials get paid pretty (well) and I understand why because nobody wants to officiate. Nobody wants to deal with all the bad parents, all the rude, obnoxious people. We're going to make it work. Like I said, our attendance has really been doing well and that helps with being able to offer this type of reward moving forward and making great things happen for the kids," Borchardt said.