Guy Ellis

The Grove Touchdown Club has introduced a new plan to offer reserved stadium seating for Ridgerunner home football games beginning in 2009.

The plan calls for the instillation of some 280 chair back seats, 10 rows deep in front of the press box, to be installed in the venerable Ridgerunner stadium. The reserved seats will be offered as part of a season ticket package for a cost of $100.

“We’re just trying to make some upgrades to the stadium,” said TC member Mike Davenport. “We’re also using it as a fundraiser for the Touchdown Club.”

Davenport has spearheaded the project noted TC President Doug Londagin.

“He took the bull by the horns and ran with it,” Londagin said.

The Grove School Board in a meeting earlier this week approved plans for the reserved seats.

Davenport, on behalf of the TC, raised the money to purchase the stadium seats.

“We went to businesses around Grove, and individuals, and I got $18,000 worth of donations in one day,” said Davenport. “The community is very generous.”

Davenport gave a breakdown of how the $100 for each season ticket will be divided up.

“The $18,000 we raised is going to buy the chairs,” said Davenport. “Those seats will then be sold for $100 apiece. Twenty-five dollars of that is for the entry fee into all the home games, which the school gets. Of the remaining $75, half of that goes to the Touchdown Club and the other half goes into a stadium upgrade fund.

“All the money we raise is going back to the kids,” Davenport continued. “The money that goes into the stadium renovation fund is to help the kids. The money that the booster club raises, we’re raising it to give back to the kids.”

Although there are many benefits to the reserved seats Davenport and the TC were quick to point out that the purchase of the seats were by no means a mandatory item for Ridgerunner fans who attend home football games.

“We want to make sure that everyone knows that there’s plenty of seating for the people who choose not to purchase reserved seats,” said Davenport. “There’s going to be plenty of seating for anybody that wants to come to the games.”

Those who elect to purchase the reserved seats will be buying into more than just a comfortable chair for home football games.

“You can come to the football game at 7:30 and still have a seat,” said Davenport. “The convenience factor alone is worth the cost of the ticket.”

The ticket sales will also have a direct impact on the Ridgerunner football program as a whole through the TC.

“We’re there to help fund what is not funded by the school,” Davenport said about the TC’s role. “We’re how the football team raises extra money.

“This year the school budget is getting so crunched that each athletic sport has to pay for a certain percentage of the fuel that they use,” Davneport said. “So that takes away from other things that they need because they have to pay for fuel.

“Our football team travels by bus to every game they go to,” Davenport said, “whether it be in town or out of town. For home games they travel by bus from the field house at the high school to the football field at the middle school. So every game they go to they spend money on fuel.”

A wee bit of home-town, home-school pride plays into the decision to use portions of the ticket sales to upgrade the football stadium.

“We want our kids to have the best,” said Davenport. “We want them to play in a nice facility.”

Upgrades to the football stadium would constitute a benefit for more than just the pigskin troops. For instance, the Ridgerunner soccer team plays its home games at the football stadium and both the Lower and Upper Elementary schools hold various events at the facility.

Fiscal realities also play into decisions regarding not only the football program, but also all Ridgerunner athletics. Building maintenance, textbooks, and other classroom educational aids have monetary priority in any school budget. For a quality athletic program to make ends meet the community and individuals have to help with donations of time, money, or, in many cases, both. As academic excellence is a reflection of the community in which it was fostered so too are athletic programs.

“We’re there to compensate and help the football program with the things they need when the school can’t fund it,” said Londagin about the TC.

In many areas academics and athletics are simpatico in their relation to one another.

“Some kids go to school for two reasons,” Davenport said. “One, because it’s the law, and two, because of sports.

“There are kids that go to school, and I was one of those kids, because I got to play football on Friday nights and baseball the rest of the year,” said Davenport. “If a sport is what keeps a kid in school then that’s good for us all. If a kid goes to school to play sports and we can give him or her an education, too, then that’s something that’s good for everybody.”

Warming to the theme Davenport offered another perspective.

“In some ways athletics can be as valuable for a kid’s education as academics is,” he said. “In life, in our jobs, we’re teammates. As part of an athletic team kids learn commitment, responsibility, and discipline. All of that is important in athletics and it’s very important in life and in the workplace.”

While the reserved stadium seating is one way for the TC to help the football program it still has a little ways to go before it becomes a reality.

“We’ll have to raise another $20,000 to install the chairs,” said Davenport. “The platforms, or landings, that the benches are on now are only 28 inches wide. To meet code they need to be 30 inches for these chairs. So, we’re going to have to pay to get the landings out to 30 inches. Our early estimates show that it’ll take another $20,000 to do that.

“Obviously some donations for the concrete work would lower that cost,” he added.

With goals in place, and the support of the school board and the community, the TC is forging ahead with their plan. It’s an ambitious project but few worthwhile things come easy.

“Our goal for ’09 is to install 285 stadium chairs,” said Davenport. “Our eventual goal is to have the whole stadium with chair back seating- and not all of those reserved- but we have to start somewhere.”