Friday, October 31, 2014

High cost of living in remote areas means some Alaska schools pay sports opponents to travel

High school sports are getting costly in remote rural areas of Alaska. Ketchikan, the state's southeasternmost city, not only has to raise thousands of dollars each year for travel costs for road games, but if it wants to host games against schools located far away, Ketchikan is forced to pay the other school's transportation costs, which includes airfare for players and coaches, Emily Files reports for KRBD 105.3 in Ketchikan. In one instance this year, Ketchikan had to dole out $8,700 to fly in a team of 20 football players from Seward.

A large portion of Ketchikan's $1.2 million budget goes toward travel, while the North Slope Borough School District budgets approximately $1.8 million each year just for activities travel, Files writes. During a recent assembly Ketchikan Superintendent Robert Boyle told concerned citizens, “We’re in awkward spot. People don’t have to come play us. . . . we’ll be on their schedule, but they won’t actually be required to come play us in Ketchikan. We couldn’t get home games if we didn’t do it.” ( map)

Opposing schools in the region pay their own costs, but with a limited number of opponents to choose from, Ketchikan usually fills out its athletic schedules with teams from farther north, Files writes. While Ketchikan pays its own way to road games, getting other schools, especially ones in urban areas where there are plenty of opponents to fill the schedule, means adding extra incentives, such as paying the other team's way.

Billy Strickland, director of the Alaska School Activities Association and a former athletic director in rural remote Alaska, told Files, “Off the road system schools, we’re more used to that philosophy of we have to pay the money to go. The urban schools or on-the-road-system schools have options that don’t cost as much. If you’re Seward, you’d probably really like to go to Ketchikan and play that game. But you’re not going to spend money to do it when you could drive to Nikiski, Kenai, Soldotna.”

Strickland "says ASAA doesn’t and shouldn’t dictate who pays for travel to the games," Files writes. "He thinks the fact that outlying schools have to pay is just another aspect of living in a more remote part of the state." Strickland told Files, “Those of us that live in remote places—part of that remoteness is just the cost of everything’s higher. Whether it’s a gallon of milk in the store or what it costs to get a basketball game. There’s a high cost of living in remote areas.” (Read more)

No comments: