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Stadium parking shuts out boosters

Published Sep. 13, 2005

For more than a dozen years, parents of children involved in marching bands at the city's two high schools have parked cars at Jack Russell Stadium during the Philadelphia Phillies' spring training games.

They made thousands of dollars to pay for uniforms, instruments and trips.

With expenses totaling about $50,000 each year, they had to find a better way to make money than selling chocolate bars door-to-door.

But for all those years, North Greenwood residents have wondered why they weren't benefiting from the stadium in their back yard.

The city has decided to give them a chance next spring.

The city, which owns the stadium, plans to accept applications from non-profit groups in North Greenwood to park cars as a fund-raiser.

That decision doesn't sit well with the band boosters at Clearwater and Countryside high schools, who will lose their biggest moneymaker.

"The location of the field should have nothing to do with it," said Karen Stewart, president of Clearwater High band boosters. "Everyone should be entitled to make a bid. But we've been asked to step aside before anyone has been chosen."

"We just wanted the opportunity," said Jonathan Wade, president of the North Greenwood Association. "We want to open it up. We wanted equal access. We don't get any benefit from (the stadium) being here."

Stewart and Bill Stitt, treasurer of Countryside High band boosters, say they may be forced to cut programs or raise fees for the 130 or so band students in each program unless they can find money elsewhere.

The parents are upset that they will not be able to compete with the other groups and that their long history of service will not be considered. This month, the band boosters sent a letter to the City Commission and City Manager Mike Roberto asking them to reconsider.

"This has always been here," Stitt said. "We are here to support the students."

Art Kader, interim director of the city's parks and recreation department, said the change was made because the commission wanted North Greenwood groups to have a chance to participate.

Kader said the band boosters could be chosen to participate again if no neighborhood group is able to meet the city's requirements, such as having enough volunteers to park cars. He will start accepting applications in the next few months.

"It has nothing to do with the schools," Kader said. "(North Greenwood residents) just wanted to get part of that revenue if they could."

Whichever group is chosen would be responsible for parking cars during the Phillies' 14 to 16 home games at a lot in front of the stadium and another near Ray Green Field. The lots hold about 1,000 cars.

Parking costs $3 a car. After paying expenses such as the off-duty police officers and insurance, and giving the city its 40 percent cut, the schools could take home $5,000 to $8,000 each.

Right now, band students pay about $120 for expenses each year for instruments, uniforms and field trips. Countryside has already decided to raise that to $150, partly because of the possible loss of the Phillies lot.

Stitt and Stewart said the schools have tried to keep the fees low enough so even students who do not have much money can participate in band.