WPIAL hopes ticket trend continues after topping $2 million in revenue last school year

Monday, September 19, 2022 | 11:50 PM

The WPIAL sold more than $2 million in tickets last school year, a jump from recent pre-pandemic days that has the league in solid financial shape.

WPIAL executive director Scott Seltzer says the increase in ticket sales could be a sign that fans found a renewed appreciation for high school sports after they were briefly kept away.

If so, he’s hopeful that trend continues.

“I think that’s what we’re seeing a lot of,” Seltzer said Monday. “It was taken away from everybody but parents (in the 2020-21 school year), because you could only have so many in the stands and you had to be so many feet apart. It really limited the number of people who could go. If you weren’t a parent, you were lucky to go.”

The WPIAL’s financial status was discussed at Monday’s board meeting when Creese, Smith, Hune & Co., presented its annual audit of the league’s books. The audit found no issues.

The league had a $257,000 profit last year. The majority of income is from ticket sales.

The WPIAL sold around $1.5 million in postseason tickets in both 2018-19 and 2019-20, a total that dropped to $1.1 million in 2020-21, when covid restrictions hit football and basketball fans hardest. But ticket sales jumped to more than $2.1 million this past school year — a 93% increase from the year before and 46% higher than recent pre-pandemic numbers.

“Everyone was just ready to get out of the house,” Seltzer said, “and go watch their kids play and go watch high school athletics again.”

Expenses also increased as the WPIAL returned to pro and college venues, including newly named Acrisure Stadium and Petersen Events Center.

The two highest-grossing sports were basketball ($646,937) and football ($582,645). A year earlier, those two combined for less than $400,000. Also posting six-figure totals last school year were soccer ($246,577), baseball ($154,435) and volleyball ($126,622).

The WPIAL earns ticket money from postseason play, not regular-season contests.

Seltzer, who was hired in July, credited former WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman, along with chief operating officer Vince Sortino and executive secretary Diana Rossmann, for navigating the league office through the pandemic.

Seltzer was board president before becoming executive director.

“We’re in a good place financially,” he said, “but, again, it’s all based on our member schools, the people who come to our events and the venues that we use.”

Board business

• The WPIAL board reprimanded Bishop Canevin football coach Rich Johnson for using an ineligible player in a preseason scrimmage, but otherwise accepted the school’s handling of the situation, which included a one-game suspension for Johnson earlier this season.

The WPIAL had ruled the player ineligible after transferring to Bishop Canevin, but he was improperly allowed to take part in a scrimmage because the coaching staff thought it was considered a practice, Seltzer said.

The school self-reported the violation.

The WPIAL board voted to censure Johnson and the school’s athletic administration and put the football team on probation, but took no other disciplinary action.

• Chestnut Ridge Christian Academy, a school in Uniontown, was granted high school membership in the WPIAL.

• A co-op request from Shaler and Shady Side Academy was approved to form a combined wrestling team.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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