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Baseball Strike Puts School Teams on Short End of the Stick

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Baseball fans and sports columnists were not the only folks to cry foul as the national pastime came to a premature end this season.

Major League Baseball also threw a curve at schools in at least a handful of cities earlier this month when Bud Selig, the acting commissioner and the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, announced there would be no more baseball this year.

While the teams' owners and the ballplayers are losing millions of dollars due to the two sides' bitter labor dispute over a proposed salary cap, the schools are losing big bucks as well.

School clubs and athletic teams have their own labor agreements with vendors at a number of major-league ballparks.

In return for a percentage of the take, high school students and parents hawk such traditional ballpark wares as hot dogs, soda, peanuts, and cotton candy. They use the money to buy uniforms, or hire an extra coach, or pay for other goods and services their schools do not, or cannot, provide.

Now, with nearly a third of the season wiped out, they have struck out.

Rocky Mountain Low

The arrival of the Colorado Rockies at Mile High Stadium in Denver in 1993 was a bonanza to the clubs and teams of some area high schools.

Money for a lot of education's so-called extras, like interscholastic sports, had pretty well dried up.

Students at Loveland High School in Loveland, Colo., had to pay a $75 users' fee per sport.

Sports survived with the aid of gate receipts and student-athletes pinch-hitting to raise money by washing cars, running marathons, and selling candy and other merchandise.

In 1988, the school signed on to work the games of Denver's professional football team, the Broncos, but that adds up to only eight games if the team is eliminated from postseason play.

Baseball, though, generally means 81 home games, for which Loveland High School gets 15 percent of the gross from its sales, after taxes.

"We brought in over $100,000 for the [1993-94 school] year from Mile High Stadium," said Gene Alvine, Loveland High's athletic director. "That is really tough to replace."

The band and the boys' basketball team took the biggest hits. Other clubs had worked the concession stands in the spring and earlier in the summer, before the players went on strike.

The band stands to lose about $15,000, and basketball about $6,000--40 percent of the team's budget.

The band uses its earnings to take a trip every three years--the latest to Hawaii in January to perform at the Aloha Bowl.

The basketball team, however, uses its take to buy uniforms and equipment and hire an assistant coach.

"If there's good news," said Mr. Alvine, the band "still has 2 years left to do fund-raising."

From Birds to Braves

The concessionaire at Mile High Stadium, ARA Leisure Services, runs similar programs at four other ballparks--Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Chicago's Wrigley Field, and Atlanta Stadium.

ARA in Atlanta was working with four area schools this year, said Barbara Sorenson, the vendor's personnel coordinator at the stadium where the Atlanta Braves play.

Ms. Sorenson, in fact, started out as a band-booster parent in 1990 and ended up getting hired by the company in 1993 after her school stopped participating in the program.

The deal was lucrative, but no longer necessary, Ms. Sorenson said. "We had met our big goal, which was to buy band uniforms."

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