Richard Garland, executive director of RFPRA, said the new deal works out to approximately $7,500 per home football game, up from $5,000 per game the last several years
Shorter Athletics and the RFPRA hammered out a three-year, $321,000 deal just days before Shorter hosts Charleston Southern for the Hawks’ Homecoming game today.
The contract gives Shorter use of Barron Stadium for all of the university’s home football games and home track meets and practices, along with at least one soccer and one lacrosse game annually. Shorter uses its own Ben Brady artificial-surface field for soccer and lacrosse games, as well as football practice.
Shorter is also granted the right to host its spring graduation exercises in the stadium with as many as five miscellaneous events each year. Shorter conducted its spring graduation ceremony at the stadium this year.
“What we’re being asked to pay is to make sure that they don’t lose money when we utilize those facilities,” said Shorter University Director of Athletics Bill Peterson. “A lot of trust has to go into that because we can’t really determine what those numbers are. We’ve had a long working relationship, a very trusting relationship, a very good relationship.”
The authority does provide facility stadium staffing during both Rome High and Shorter University athletic events. Other direct costs to the recreation authority include electricity and water, along with any maintenance, both direct and deferred.
Garland said the authority continues to charge Rome High School $5,000 per home game for the rental of Barron.
“The board settled on $7,500 a game for Shorter,” Garland said. “It’s so important for us to not lose on this.”
In the past, Shorter has paid $2,500 per day for track meets and $200 per day for track practice. Last year Shorter track and field generated $26,000 in revenue. Shorter was also charged $2,500 for Shorter’s commencement exercises this past spring.
The fee arrangement has gone up, but Peterson said that improvements have also been made to the facility.
“We feel that we have done some things as a university to convince people that a nicer stadium would be better for the community and we’ve added where we can,” Peterson. “You’ve got a brand new scoreboard, a beautiful eight-lane track that is having some work done, but it’s all being done by the manufacturer at no cost. It’s been painted, the press box has been updated somewhat, there are beautiful new locker rooms. It’s clearly, from our perspective, it’s a top- notch Division II football facility.”
Peterson said that after three road trips to start the 2012 season, he believes that none of those facilities were as nice as Barron. He said that Shorter wanted a long-term contract so that the school would know exactly what its expenses would be for the next three years.
Shorter University is not the only institution in the NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference to play in an off-campus stadium. Valdosta State plays its home games in Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, while the University of North Alabama plays its games in Tom Braly Stadium, owned by the city of Florence, Ala.
Peterson said that Shorter officials have visited the stadium in Valdosta.
“We’re not as big, the stadium in terms of attendance is not as big, but I think everything we have is certainly very, very comparable to what Valdosta has,” Peterson said. “There you see nothing that says Valdosta State, there is no Hawk head in the end zone like we have.”
The stadium in Valdosta is actually owned by the Valdosta school system.
Herb Reinhard, director of athletics at Valdosta State University, said the university pays approximately $5,000 per game to the city school system for use of the stadium.
Braly Stadium, owned by the city of Florence, has hosted the Division II National Championship game for many years. Officials at the University of North Alabama did not return calls from the Rome New News-Tribune regarding their rent agreement with the city of Florence.
Garland said that the new contract also includes funding for parks and recreation personnel to maintain the Throws Center located on Riverside Parkway. Shorter paid the bill for the initial development of the state-of-the-art Throws Center earlier this year.
The significant upgrades to Barron Stadium during the last several years, specifically the artificial surface which allows the stadium to be used for multiple purposes, along with the new NCAA-certified track, are expected to generate additional events and revenue for the parks and recreation authority and community in general.
Barron Stadium will continue to host the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics football championship through 2015, another partnership with Shorter, which just this year moved from the NAIA to NCAA Division II.