Friday night football attracts big business

Trevor Maxim | Staff Writer
Tony DeLotell | Staff Writer

Friday night lights are attracting both fans and sponsorship deals as the athletic department focuses on extensive corporate sponsorships, according to Athletic Director Scott Stemple. New additions this year, like the Atrium stadium and a scrolling advertisement board, show a growing trend among Mason sports.

The partnership with Atrium Medical Center, culminated by the construction of the 20,000 square foot health and wellness center, is only the most recent development in an ongoing expansion of the school’s facilities, according to Stemple.

“With Atrium coming on, rather than 20 or 30 thousand [dollars] that you might get from corporate sponsorships over a period of time, we’ve gone to million-dollar types of sponsorships,” Stemple said.

As well as the major Atrium sponsorship, the athletic department has gained several other sponsors recently such as Verizon Wireless and Culvers.

“When we go to generate corporate sponsorships, we sell the fact that Atrium has a presence here; they put up a nice facility,” Stemple said. “Corporate sponsorships have changed dramatically over the past six to seven years because of the presence of a partnership with a corporation.”

The first home game of the season on September 11 against Centerville accumulated a ticket sales total of $24,300, according to Assistant Athletic Director Cathy Crotty. The attendance for this game was well above average, according to Stemple.

“Our home always seems to draw well, [with] 4,500-5,000 [people],” Stemple said. “[For] the Centerville game this year, we pushed 8,000.”

Crotty said that the athletic department has also sold $13, 275 in family season passes, an increasingly popular option.

“Our ticket people hear a lot more complaints about [ticket prices] than they have in the past,” Crotty said. “Our family passes have gone up tremendously because people are trying to get that nice break.”

The city of Mason nearly doubled in population size between the years 1990 and 2000, according to the website Stemple said that this rapid growth of the Mason and Deerfield Township areas is the reason for the increased attention to sporting events at MHS.

“We’re a viable option for marketing, to expose people’s products,” Stemple said. “And that’s grown over the years; it’s become more and more attractive.”

Varsity football coach and business teacher Jason Austerman, in his third year of coaching, said he has felt firsthand the impact of the increased sponsorships and facility expansions.

“[With] the facility up- grades…if we can’t produce the results on the field, then there’s going to be some gray area there,” Austerman said. “People are going to be questioning our coaching ability and what we’re doing.”
Austerman said he sees the future growth of the football facilities in hosting state playoff games, allowing wider exposure to people outside of the community.

“It’s probably going to be a Division III or Division IV playoff game…but once we host that and once word gets out about our facilities, [the attention] is going to spread pretty rampantly,” Austerman said.

As well as hosting Ohio High School Athletic Association events, Stemple said the facilities may even be further updated if the football team’s record improves.

“If our team ever really started having some success, as they did years ago, we wouldn’t have enough room in our stands,” Stemple said. “We’ve had discussions of potential expansion.”

Like Stemple, Austerman said he recognizes that not all fans will continue to be accommodated with the current arrangements.

“It’s a great facility, but you’ve got to continue to improve at the same time—and our athletic department will continue to do so,” Austerman said.

Among the additions Austerman said he would like to see are bleachers in the end zones and possibly a new scoreboard at some point in the future. Both Stemple and Austerman said, however, that any expansions are merely in the conversation stage, with no official plans made at this point.

Even with the changes that Dwire Field has seen over the years, Stemple said the spirit of the game remains similar to how it always has been.

“Friday night football has always been a big thing,” Stemple said. “Because we’ve grown so much, it’s just magnified.”

With this growth, Mason fans have built a strong showing on Friday nights that senior Ethan Brown said can have a big influence on the outcome of the game. He said he uses the crowd as a way to get energized for each competition.

“I think [the crowd] is a huge factor,” Brown said. “Adrenaline going into the game is extremely important. When I’m in the weight room, I’m always picturing playing in front of the home crowd and the Black Hole. Seeing that on Friday nights really gets you focused. It’s surreal.”

Coach Dave Sedmak said that he believes that the crowd can help, but it doesn’t influence the team’s play on the field. The crowd responds to how the team is playing, according to Sedmak.

“The crowd can be beneficial, but the crowd tends to respond more to how we play versus doing something to get us to play better,” Sedmak said.

Brown said that the pride of representing his school and community is the biggest motivation for him. When the attendance is low, it’s hard to get excited to play, according to Brown.

“Football is a sport that has so much pride because you’re representing a community,” Brown said. “When that’s not visually in front of you, you’re not as geared up.”

Senior Rhett Durbin said he finds his motivation in the community as well.

“The community looks up to the football team, so I really take pride in the fact that they look up to us,” Durbin said.

Sedmak said that pride is an important aspect of football and that this year’s team has done a better job at focusing.

“We have to remind [the players] about having pride in themselves and their team and their product,” Sedmak said. “This particular group, because they’ve invested more, has done a better job of being focused. The thing is there’s a game, a contest every Friday night, so there’s preparation for that contest.”

According to Sedmak, the football team spends 15 to 17 hours a week preparing for a Friday game doing their best to utilize the new facilities. Sedmak said that the new weight room, locker room and team room have all been beneficial to the team in their preparation for games.

“The nice thing about the new weight room is that the whole team can lift at once,” Sedmak said. “The team room is great because we can split it into two [groups]; offense and defense can be separate. The locker room is great because there’s plenty of room. We don’t have to trek all the way over to the middle school on game days.”

Brown said that because the weight room wasn’t finished until the summer, the team wasn’t able to use it over the off-season. As a result, the improvement will show for next year’s team, according to Brown.

“It will be interesting to see how it affects the team next year because they get to use the weight room all off-season,” Brown said.

Because Mason has state-of-the-art facilities, such as the new weight room and the Atrium building, the amount of pressure on the team is elevated, according to Durbin.

“I think there is definitely more pressure because everybody looks at Mason as this big giant school with everything,” Durbin said. “If we lose, people think, ‘Why are we building all this stuff?’”

Want to see this story in print?