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State title game should be played on peninsula

Posted: Friday, October 16, 2009

It's a great thing that the Kenai and Soldotna high school football teams will meet Saturday to play for the small-schools state title.

There's one thing that would make it even better: play the game here on the Kenai Peninsula.

Since the Alaska School Activities Association first sanctioned a small-schools football title in 2000, it has been played at Anchorage Football Stadium.

We applaud ASAA's efforts to make the title game into a big game. The game has become an event, now dubbed the First National Bowl, and AFS certainly is a nice facility. The travel, the hotels, the halftime show -- for the teams involved, high school football has gone big-time.

But sending our teams to the big city leaves a whole lot of people out -- namely, the two communities that have supported these two squads since opening kickoff in August.

Yes, many Kenai and SoHi fans will make the trip for the game. There will be a good crowd in the stands waving silver and blue or red and black. For those who make the trip, it's a great experience.

And the game will be televised on GCI Channel 1, broadcast on 1140 AM radio, and streamed over the Internet -- go to www.asaa.org for details.

But how many more fans would come to the game if it were played locally, say at Skyview or Nikiski? Wouldn't it be great to expose as many people as possible to championship-level football?

If one of the teams involved weren't from the Kenai Peninsula, then yes, it would make sense to play a game in Anchorage or up in the Mat-Su. But in years where both teams are from the same region -- this is the fifth time two peninsula teams have met in the title game -- doesn't it make sense to play the game in that region?

The hardcore fans and players' family and friends will be there no matter where the game is played. What about the average peninsula resident -- a majority of us don't have kids in the school system, and of those of us who do, it's a small fraction with kids in high school -- who isn't inclined to make the 6-hour round-trip drive to watch someone else's kid? Wouldn't it be great to see families with younger kids be able to take in the game, and perhaps inspire the next generation of high school athletes? Wouldn't it be great for all the local business owners who have supported their high school teams with ads in the programs and donations and whatever else they can spare to see the kids who are benefitting from that generosity?

That brings us to the money. Teams are responsible for their own transportation and lodging; ASAA keeps the gate receipts to cover expenses. Concessions and memorabilia sales also go to ASAA. Schools -- the ones picking up the tab for the bus or plane and the hotel bill -- are not allowed to do any fundraising at the game.

Wouldn't playing the game locally make financial sense? The school booster clubs could save money, and a bigger crowd would mean a bigger gate for ASAA. Plus, fans who haven't emptied their wallets to pay for gas, food and a hotel room might be more inclined to buy a program, T-shirt or ball cap.

We appreciate the work ASAA has done to make the state championships more than just another game. We just wish a way could be found for more of us to enjoy it.



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