Colorado High School Activities Association Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green and her staff have endured many difficult months with canceled seasons and state tournaments, COVID quarantines, protests, masks, a large dip in revenues and sports seasons being switched.
Now, the CHSAA is feeling optimistic about the upcoming 2021-22 seasons.
The COVID pandemic forced the boys and girls state basketball tournaments to be canceled in 2020 and all spring sports seasons were also called off which helped create a CHSAA revenue deficit of $500,000.
Masks were required for athletes and the limited amount of spectators were allowed last fall for seasons with abbreviated schedules. Some sports had their seasons moved but all sports wound up with 2020-21 state championship meets, matches and games.
“I knew what I had to deal with and we stayed focused on what needed to get done,” Blanford-Green said Aug. 16 on CHSAA Media Day at Empower Field. “The challenges were there but our office is competitive. We are going to focus on positivity and not be reacting to the stuff that's out there.”
Some of the decisions were made by the state and not by the CHSAA, but people were polarized.
“The public, our legislators, some of our coaches and some of our community leaders make us realize why we are here which resulted in protests and it was said the CHSAA doesn't get it,” she continued. “We get it. It's student athletes, not athlete students.
“The public and parents and some of our administrators and some of our media want to exaggerate that athletics trumped education. It became clear that we were going to have to look at what it meant. Nobody protested to me about cross country, nobody protested about volleyball. We had club volleyball playing indoors with masks but yet CHSAA couldn't play. Nobody wrote a story about our girls. It was all about the 2.1% of kids that even played college football. We have more kids that get volleyball and soccer scholarships than football. We struggled with the inequities of the public fighting for one sport and not student leadership.”
This year the state volleyball and basketball tournaments were moved to the World Arena in Colorado Springs. The state football championship games were played at CSU-Pueblo. The wrestling state championships were held at the Southwest Motors Events Center in Pueblo while the state baseball finals were played at All-Star Park in Lakewood. The soccer title matches were in Colorado Springs.
The CHSAA was notified that the Denver Coliseum will continue to be a shelter until the first of the year meaning this season's state volleyball tournament will have to be relocated again. The 4A/5A boys and girls basketball finals hope to be played at the Coliseum and the 4A/5A state football championship games are set for Empower Field. The state wrestling tournament is seeking to return to Ball Arena.
With the absence of executive public health orders from the state, local health departments and school districts will be making decisions on requirements for spectators and the number of fans allowed to watch this year. Jeffco, for instance, will require masks to be worn by fans at volleyball and gymnastics.
“The Coliseum has kind of been a home for CHSAA indoor sports until the disruption last year,” Blanford-Green said. “We had so many groups step up and say `what do you need from us?' And it tells you the World Arena, we walked in and every event we held, there was a guarantee to offset some of our costs. We had a bunch of groups out there say we never had the opportunity to be considered for a CHSAA event so we want to sweeten the pot.”
Without the state basketball tournaments and limited spectators allowed at other events, the CHSAA now faces a revenue shortfall that has Blanford-Green's staff working to secure existing and new corporate sponsors.
“We are in a recovery mode financially,” Blanford-Green admitted. “You get shut down in March and that's one of your biggest revenue producers. You still have the overhead costs from renting those facilities and then you have spring sports with limited capacities. Our number one goal is getting back to where we were prior to the pandemic.
“Thank God, we have some financial reserve in place and then what we have worked as a staff to secure some financial support within the association, but 75% of our budget is from ticket sales and spectators. And when you are in a 10,000-seat stadium with 75 people on one side, you are just trying.
“You are talking about the high school experience for kids and how do we make money?” she continued. “We have not made money. We did our budget projection for last year and because of the Open Season B and not having all those restrictions, we were able to recover a little bit. Our priority right now is to tag onto the traditional revenue streams. Yeah, we're about a half million dollars down.”
Players and coaches from football teams attending Media Day included Valor Christian, Legend and Lutheran. Among the attending fall sports athletes were Cherry Creek cross country standout Riley Stewart, Regis Jesuit field hockey players Ellie Johnson and Paris Corporon and Littleton unified bowler Giovanni Perez.
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