Tailgating draws praise and concern
Athletic Booster Club parents worry about the effect of new event on snack shack sales
October 16, 2015
The Associated Student Body is organizing tailgating events — which include food trucks and music at the Great Lawn —to bring the community together before every home football game.
ASB hopes that the event will increase school spirit and bring spectators to games earlier in the day than in previous years.
“We wanted to get more people out to the football games,” senior and ASB co-president Jake Whealen said. “We wanted people to come out, get some good food and then go to the game after.”
However, the tailgating events have created financial concerns for the Athletic Booster Club.
In the week prior to the first tailgate, the ABC first learned about the event through a flyer received in a local mailbox.
ABC Chair Julie Ahdoot was surprised to hear the news. According to an email she wrote, Principal Kevin Buchanan informed her earlier that that some students wanted to introduce tailgating, but that the students would speak to her prior to arranging the event. Ahdoot wrote that she was never contacted and thus believed that the idea didn’t “pan out.”
“I didn’t like the sound of [the tailgate],” Ahdoot wrote, “but I figured that maybe it was something different than what I was envisioning.”
Ahdoot said she was concerned that, because the money spent at the food trucks would primarily bring in “profit for these vendors… [it would] eat away at the profits in the snack shack.”
Food trucks offer only 10 percent to 20 percent of their profits to the school, while the snack shack receives an 80 percent profit from each item sold.
The snack shack accounts for the majority of the ABC’s fundraising. All money raised is “put back into our school” to cover expenses such as athletic trainer’s benefits, facility improvements and equipment for various school sports, Ahdoot wrote.
ASB advisor Heidi Cissell wrote in an email that the tailgating was never intended to act as a fundraiser, but simply as an effort to bring the community together.
“There was incorrect information being spread around the booster club parents in that they thought that ASB lined up the food trucks to make a profit,” Cissell wrote. “It was never our intention to do that.”
Though ASB did not originally intend the tailgating event to serve as a fundraiser, Ahdoot said that the ABC “views [the food trucks] more as a distraction” to the snack shack.
With the uncertainty of where people would be spending their money to eat, the ABC decided to reduce the amount of food ordered per game at the snack shack. For example, in previous years, the ABC regularly ordered 150 sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A, but reduced that order to 90 for the first game of the season.
Upon hearing concern from the ABC, Cissell and student leaders decided to give all profits received from commissions to the ABC. They also planned the event to start at 5 p.m. and end at 7 p.m. so that it would not conflict with the varsity game and snack shack sales.
Assistant Principal Jason Meskis said he believes that the tailgating will not interfere with snack shack sales.
“[The tailgate] is attracting a different crowd; people are still hungry at halftime at the varsity game but by then the food trucks have already left,” Meskis said. “[Those] who are going to the food trucks have [planned to do so beforehand].”
Because the food trucks send a check to the school after all events have concluded, school officials will not know whether there was a decrease in sales at the snack shack until the football season is over.
In the event that less money is made, Ahdoot said that “these expenses will need to be covered by another avenue.”
Despite these behind-the-scenes discussions, many students have a positive view of the tailgate and believe that it has encouraged student participation in the games.
“[I] went earlier to the [junior varsity] game and would usually have showed up right on time to the varsity game,” junior Liliana Fendler said.
Senior Bek Kamolov said he applauded the event for having “diverse foods” and “amazing beverages.” During the tailgate he and his friends “were getting pumped” and “were already ready for the [varsity] game.”
Some students believe that there is still room for improvement.
“There isn’t much to do besides stand around and listen to music,” sophomore Susan Carman said.
Head football coach Tim Kenney said that, though he was worried that students might spend more time at the tailgate instead of the football game despite the time change, he was also “encouraged” that the student body wanted to bring school spirit to the game.
“I like the idea of giving students a reason to show up to sports to support other students,” Kenney said. “Anything that will increase the spirit of athletics, I’m in favor of.”
Varsity football players also saw the tailgate as an opportunity to increase school spirit.
“[The students] were tailgating our game like they tailgate professional games. It kind of felt cool,” junior linebacker and running back Tyler Glassman said.
Junior linebacker and running back Dylan Sweeterman said he agreed.
“There was a wild and exciting atmosphere [at the tailgate]; there was a good feeling,” Sweeterman said.
ASB has made an extensive effort to advertise the event, including mailing flyers, advertising in the Acorn and sending an all-call to parents. The local Oak Park elementary and middle schools were also contacted to draw in large crowds.
“We don’t want [the tailgate] to be just for Oak Park [High School],” Whealen said. “We want it to be for the entire Oak Park district.”
The idea originated from senior and ASB Treasurer Max Davis who, in late August, proposed creating a tailgate event during which football spectators would be greeted by food and music.
While other local high schools feature similar programs to the tailgating, none involve both pre-game food trucks and music.
Agoura High School has “Big Friday,” an ASB-sponsored pre-game barbecue at the first home football game. Westlake High School allows a student-led tailgating event in the student parking lot with music, but no food. Thousand Oaks High School’s ASB invites local food sponsors to have vendors during their football games alongside a general snack shack.
“It’s a big step [ASB] is taking and not too many people do it because it is hard to do,” Whealen said. “But if you do it right, it gets more people to come and it’s worth it.”