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January 25, 2013

Free sports tickets may get the boot

PEABODY — Good intentions and modern lifestyles are combining to make an intolerable situation for ticket takers serving Peabody High School sports. It’s bad enough that the School Committee is acknowledging a need to re-examine current policies.

“Our ticket takers don’t make a lot of money,” athletic director Phil Sheridan said during a recent meeting of the School Committee, “and they get yelled at constantly.”

It’s the public doing the yelling, he said, and their complaints are largely sparked by a department policy dating from 2007 and meant to give free passes to parents of athletes. The system has produced multiple problems, according to Sheridan.

“What we’re running into now,” he said, “is the blended family. Mom will come in with her new husband, and they want to get in for free. And then dad will come in with his new wife, and they want to get in for free, too. And we get yelled at.”

In addition, he said, parents sometimes give their tickets to the kids, who aren’t eligible. Or they leave the tickets at home and expect to get in anyway.

“There’s possible fraud,” said board member Brandi Carpenter, who had asked for the report on gate receipts. “Because they can just duplicate the tickets.”

The problem seems particularly troublesome at the McVann-O’Keefe Memorial Skating Rink, a facility actually owned by the state, which demands a percentage of the gate sales. Thus, when parents attend hockey games for free, Sheridan said, the rink still expects a share of that $7 ticket price. (Adults pay $5 at football games and $4 at basketball games.)

While stressing that he does not oppose the spirit of the free ticket policy, Sheridan estimated that it was responsible for $4,000 in lost revenue. He showed more concern, however, about the abuse the staff has had to take because of it.

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