Money on the table? School activities bring people, dollars into Hays

Money on the table? School activities bring people, dollars into Hays

Posted Apr 11, 2021 6:01 AM

Hays High School is limited on what events it can host because the size of the gym at Hays High School. Photos courtesy of Kim Reel Photography 
Hays High School is limited on what events it can host because the size of the gym at Hays High School. Photos courtesy of Kim Reel Photography https://www.facebook.com/kimreelphotography

By CRISTINA JANNEY
Hays Post

School events bring people into Hays and those visitors spend money at local businesses, but some local officials think Hays may be leaving money on the table by not upgrading USD 489's facilities.

Melissa Dixon, director of the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau, said overnight guests brought in $44 million in revenue to Hays in 2019. The CVB's data shows a spike in revenue around community sporting events, some of which are USD 489-sponsored events.

Day visitors are also bringing in funds to the local economy, although she said that revenue is harder to track. They shop, dine and fill their vehicles up with gas while they're in Hays, she said.

"I would love to have a shiny new sports facility in the next few years," she said.

However, Dixon said she thought the facilities where students attend classes are more important than sports facilities, especially when it comes to encouraging new families to move to Hays.

“My kids go to Lincoln, and they love it," she said, "but there are days that we are, ‘What is that funny smell in the basement?’ ‘Oh, we're having trouble with our sewer line.’ Those problems aren’t going to go away without a little bit of money.

“I think it is a real shame that our community hasn’t been able to pass a bond because they don’t see the value in our schools.”

"In my job, I want both, so we can recruit those tournaments too," she said of both new academic and athletic facilities.

The Hays school district has not passed a major bond issue in more than 40 years. The school district has had two failed bond attempts in the last five years.

The district recently completed a survey of residents conducted by its architectural firm, which may be the first step in another bond attempt.

Lance Krannawitter, HHS athletics and activities director, said in a school board meeting in February that Hays has not turfed any of its soccer or football fields despite other schools in the region turfing even its middle school fields.

The district also is seeking to build a new softball field. The Hays High students are currently using a field off campus as is junior varsity baseball.

The district has tried to make some improvements using capital outlay funds, but does not have enough funds to make major improvements, including turfing fields, building a new softball field,  or expanding its gym space.

A group of community residents recently offered donations to build new soccer fields at HHS, something the administration and school board admitted could not be done without private funding. That project is underway.

HHS has an average of 650 athletic participants annually out of about 850 students. Some of those are individuals who participate in multiple sports.

Superintendent Ron Wilson said although the district has updated some of the volleyball infrastructure in its main gym at the high school to accommodate sub-state tournaments, the capacity in the gym is still lacking for other events.

The lack of an auditorium at the high school has also been a complicating factor in bringing student events to Hays. Hays hosted a regional student council conference at Rockwell Administration Center because HHS does not have an auditorium.

The conditions at Rockwell were not ideal, Wilson said.

Not having an auditorium at the high school is an issue. However, even when the Hays students use the 12th Street Auditorium at Rockwell, there are issues with seating capacity, as well as the size of the stage.

Wilson said if the district would be able to fund a new auditorium it would invite other community groups to use the facilities.

Dixon said she thought improving school facilities are important to all residents of the community.

“I think it is a real shame that our community hasn’t been able to pass a bond because they don’t see the value in our schools,” she said.

“I think we need to do a better job of educating our citizens on how important it is and just because you don’t have kids in school doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect you and your quality of life,” she added.