ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Saturday’s game could generate thousands in revenue for the NMAA
By Will Webber
Journal Staff Writer
That flash across the sky appears to be jolly ol’ Saint Nick heading for the New Mexico Activities Association’s front door.
It seems Santa has a little present for the state’s governing body of high school athletics, and it has nothing to do with toy trucks or red wagons. He’s bringing cash. Lots of it.
For the first time since 2002, the state’s biggest football rivalry will take place in the postseason. That means Christmas will be this Saturday at 1 p.m. for the NMAA. That’s when top-ranked and unbeaten Las Cruces takes on crosstown rival Mayfield, the three-time defending Class 5A state champion, in a semifinal matinée at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
The winner moves into the finals a week later. That’s great for the team on top, but a case could be made that the real winner will be the association. A crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 is expected. With tickets selling for $8 for adults and $5 for students, it promises to be a huge pay day. If the game is a sellout it translates to approximately $200,000 in ticket sales. Additional revenue would come from souvenir sales and game programs.
If the weather holds — the forecast is for the mid-50s with a slight chance of rain — officials at the NMAA suggest there’s no reason to doubt that the fans will come out. After all, this is a hot rivalry, the stakes haven’t been this high in years and it is Thanksgiving weekend. It’s the only show in town and a majority of family and alumni from both schools will be off work and in town.
The last time the teams met was Nov. 7. Las Cruces Public Schools athletic director Ernie Viramontes originally estimated the crowd at 26,000. That was later ammended to 18,000. On Monday, NMAA assistant director Mario Martinez said the actual paid attendance was roughly 15,000.
No matter what this weekend’s game brings, it means a financial boon for the NMAA. A member-driven organization, it depends on school dues, ticket sales from state tournaments and numerous corporate sponsorships to remain alive. Along those lines, Saturday’s game is shaping up as one heckuva life preserver.
“We always look on the low end of whatever (the attendance) might be,” said NMAA spokesman and assistant director Robert Zayas. “In this case we’d say 15,000 to 20,000. The most conservative estimate is the most responsible way to go into a game like that. We can’t expect a sellout.”
NMAA executive director Gary Tripp said last week that the association was negotiating a rental agreement with New Mexico State University that allowed the teams to use the stadium at a discounted rate. Zayas could not elaborate, but he did say that the NMAA will pay about $25,000 to use the facility. That cost includes security, staff, game officials and payouts to both schools.
In other sports, such as basketball, the NMAA gives seven percent of all ticket sales to the University of New Mexico to cover rent for the PIt. Of every state tournament the NMAA sponsors, only basketball, football and cheer/dance attract enough people to turn a profit.
A number of sports, like golf and tennis, have no charge for admission while others, like soccer and track and field, consistently lose money.
“We spent $90,000 on soccer and $100,000 on track and lost money on both,” Zayas said, adding that the soccer tournament’s expenses included $33,000 to pay officials, $8,000 for security and $6,500 on portable restrooms.
Assistant director Mario Martinez said losses for soccer and track reached $20,000 to $30,000. The profits from the three revenue-generating postseason events helps offset the costs. And while the NMAA is pleased to get an all-Cruces playoff game, there’s no sense hoping it will happen every year.
“If we get a Las Cruces-Mayfield game every once in a while great, but we’ve got to do a great job of balancing our budget whether we get a game like that or not,” Martinez said.
Football is one sport in which the NMAA guarantees a financial package to the schools involved in the postseason. It allots approximately 20 percent of profits to each school. An additional 60 percent goes to the association while the rest covers game costs. Each school’s portion pays for travel expenses and provides a small stipend for each player’s meals (about $10 per player).
In the end, a school could get anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the crowd size. Martinez said Melrose and Tatum got about $3,000-$4,000 from last weekend’s Eight-Man football championship game.
THIS WEEK’S PLAYOFF GAMES
Artesia (7-4) at Goddard (10-1)
Clovis (10-1) at Eldorado (11-0)
Mayfield (9-2) vs. Las Cruces (11-0)
Belen (10-1) at Aztec (11-0)
Bloomfield (9-2) at Portales (8-3)St. Michael’s (8-4) at Lovington (8-3)
Texico (12-0) at Dexter (11-0)