Touted by Rockford Superintendent Michael Shibler as a fundraiser for athletic programs at Rockford Public Schools, fans will enjoy this year’s rival football game against Muskegon at Fifth Third Ballpark.
“The state is in a financial crisis, we are looking to raise money for boys and girls athletic programs,” Shibler said of the move, which has stirred some controversy. He said income for Rockford’s athletic programs for middle school through high school could be as high as $45,000 to $50,000 for the evenings game. Fifth Third will split half of all sales for the evening—admission, parking, concessions—to have the game there.
Shibler said he approached Fifth Third officials a year and a half ago with the idea and offered to play the Muskegon home game there last year against Rockford, but he said the Rockford rival wasn’t interested. Fans will have to pay more per ticket—$5 per student versus $3 at the Ted and $7 for adults, compared to $5—as well as parking at $5.
Despite the Rockford Ted Stadium sporting new artificial turf, Shibler said there are other benefits to giving up an evening’s home game to one at Fifth Third.
“A lesser rationale is this is a different and exciting venue, not just for our student athletes, but also for the cheer, the marching band and the fans,” he said. “There have been other high school games there. With the Rockford/Muskegon game having the potential to draw large numbers of fans, this is a good opportunity.”
Coach Ralph Munger said he had mixed feelings over the idea. “If you have a chance to play at home, we should play at home. There is nothing like the Ted when it is packed at night and the lights are on. It’s a wonderful environment to play.” He agreed with Shibler, however, that schools need to do what they can in fundraising.
“You can’t have athletics driven by the all-mighty dollar, that’s wrong,” he said. “But if you have an opportunity to make it profitable, those dollars will benefit all Rockford athletic programs.”
“We don’t have a problem taking it on the road,” Munger stated. “We played at Eastern. We played at Michigan State. We closed the Silverdome. We opened up Ford Field.” He said there are other uspides to being there, including exposure.
One more reason to give up a home game to the ballpark? “It puts more pressure on me and my players. We don’t just want to play three home games. That means we have to make the playoffs.”
The game will kickoff at the usual time of 7 p.m. and will take place on October 1. Dr. Shibler said the increase in ticket price should not deter the more than 12,000 fans who showed up at the last Rockford Muskegon game here two years ago. “If they view it as a fundraiser, that’s key.”