High school sports are back in Southwest Florida. But the restrictions due to COVID-19 are creating less and less revenue for schools and their athletic programs.
In Lee and Collier counties, schools are allowing only limited fan capacity in the stands—25% in Lee, specifically.
“Our struggle is that we really rely on the fall season, especially when we get the big games in town,” said Israel Gallegos, the Director of Operations for Immokalee High School Football.
High schools can no longer sell out games due to coronavirus restrictions. That is financially impacting many high school athletic programs.
“If you’re reducing your ticket sales to 25% there’s going to be some finance ramifications down the road,” said Jeffrey Estes, Bonita Springs High School’s principal.
Schools like Bonita Springs and Immokalee High are beginning to feel the impacts of these reduced crowd sizes.
No ticket sales don’t just mean teams may not have enough money for new gear. It also means there are fewer funds to invest in athletes’ futures.
“That goes a long way for our kids to get out of Immokalee, pursuing their dreams and whatever career they can get,” Gallegos added.
Some of the money that is made from fan revenue is usually used to make game highlight reels for athletes. Those videos are then sent out to colleges where the athletes hope to continue their athletic careers.
“We want to make sure that our kids get on the platform so that everybody gets a scholarship and for everyone that’s going to give them an opportunity to get an education at the next level,” said Gallegos.
Gallegos says, despite the entire community struggling financially during the coronavirus, people have still been kind enough to open their hearts and wallets to help.
“It’s difficult because here people in Immokalee are kind of going through a tough time,” he said.
While this has been a financially difficult time, Estes says he’s just happy the kids are getting to play at all. “I’m just happy the kids are getting an opportunity to play. In particular the seniors, it’s their last chance,” said Principal Estes.