Friday, August 24, 2012

North-South at Classic Park: How long will the novelty last?

My colleague John Kampf recently wrote that one of high school football's appeals is fans get the action, excitement and community atmosphere of a sporting event without the expense of going to a professional game.

South and North are going to test that Oct. 26, when the Civil War football game is moved to Classic Park.

Tickets are $8 in advance ($5 for students) and $10 at the gate. A 16-person suite can be purchased for $560 ($35 per person). Parking in the city lot is $5.

Prediction: The novelty of playing a high school football game in a minor-league baseball stadium will wear off fast.

The first priority, as it is when games are played at Cleveland Browns Stadium or with basketball games at Quicken Loans Arena and baseball at Progressive Field and Classic Park, is giving the players an opportunity to have a lifelong memory.

The benefits of playing football at Classic Park drop off quickly after that.

Participants talked about drawing 6,000 fans for the game. I wouldn't assume that. Just billing it as South-North won't be enough. Further incentive is needed to get fans to pay more.

South is expected to be one of the top teams in the area this year, possibly going into the game with a 9-0 record. North isn't. The Rangers are replacing 18 of 22 starters. So this game might not have playoff or Premier Athletic Conference championship implications. But the prices will.

Fans who have watched a college bowl game played at a major-league stadium know about another issue: Baseball ballparks were not designed for football. Some of the seats will have great views of the field. But many fans will be sitting at odd angles and craning their necks to see around those in front of them.

Another issue involves the turf, although that problem is more for the city of Eastlake and the Lake County Captains. It will cost $20,000 to prepare the field.

This game might do well the first time because of the novelty. But if the Rangers and Rebels come into the 2013 game without the playoffs or a PAC title on the line as a drawing card, the prospects of paying $8 to $10 plus parking won't seem appealing.

Better get the fireworks ready.

- Howard Primer


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