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Tryouts have their price

By David La Vaque, Star Tribune, 12/19/11, 11:28PM CST


Edina's $50 fee for hockey is believed to be the first of its kind in the state

Edina boys' hockey

In a sign of tougher economic times pinching school budgets, it's costing prospective Edina High School hockey players and golfers $50 to find out they didn't make the cut.

For the first time, boys and girls cut from those Hornets programs this school year are being charged a $50 nonrefundable tryout fee. It's an option other schools could consider, along with raising participation fees for sports and charging admission to events that used to be free, as they try to maintain sports within shrinking budgets.

"You probably will see more of it," Minnesota State High School League board member Kevin Merkle said. "What it kind of comes down to is, raise fees or cut sports."

Edina Activities Director John Soma said he projects the tryout fees to put $5,000 "back into the general fund, similar to tickets and entry fees." He said he is not aware of other schools charging tryout fees.

With added costs for ice time and greens fees, Edina hockey and golf tryouts are more expensive than, for example, basketball, which does not require additional gymnasium space.

Hockey costs $220 at Edina and golf costs $140. Athletes cut in those sports get their participation fee returned, minus $50.

"With the larger numbers of kids trying out, those sports became a legitimate extra cost endured by the district," Soma said.

Reaction among some hockey parents includes resignation to yet another cost of an already expensive sport.

Edina Hockey Association board member Jim O'Neill, whose son, Aaron, was cut from the varsity this year, said he "sees the value in what you're getting to try out," but added the $50 fee "is just one more thing you pay. After 12 years of hockey, you're used to getting nickel-and-dimed."

Soma said two parents of boys' hockey players called and told him "they understood but were not in favor" of tryout fees.

Across the metro area and state, athletes in all sports pay an up-front participation fees of varying amounts, established by the schools. Pressure has mounted to increase those fees as schools have struggled to manage tighter budgets.

The Edina School District made $2.3 million in budget cuts before this school year, resulting in fewer teaching jobs and class offerings.

Athletics fees increased by $15 to $30 per sport. The cap for a family is $600. Scholarships are available for students who can't afford the fees.

Offsetting costs in athletics is a wider concern. Last year, Minnetonka started charging admission to varsity events where fans often don't pay, most notably baseball.

Edina coaches try to give prospective players the most value for their dollar. Boys' hockey coach Curt Giles cut 42 players during November's tryouts, none until after the third day.

Girls' hockey coach Laura Slominski said 14 players were cut this season, but all received at least three hours of ice time.

The cuts from the two hockey teams translates to $2,800 in fees generated for the school's budget.

Boys' golf coach Phil Finanger said $50 buys players a week inside the Braemar Golf Dome, three nine-hole rounds outside at Braemar Golf Course, plus "three sets of [coaches'] eyes on you."

Finanger said a tryout fee of $20 to $30 used to exist in boys' golf. He said fees coming and going "had no big impact" on the numbers of tryouts. He cut 38 golfers last spring.

Girls' golf coach Mark Harelstad said he has not needed to cut a player in the past two seasons.

Finanger doesn't expect wide-spread objection when golf tryouts are held in the spring.

"The reasoning is strong behind it," Finanger said. "I don't think parents will bat an eye."

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