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Carroll, Kuemper schools reduce stadium-rental costs

Kuemper will continue using Carroll Schools' softball fields

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Kuemper Catholic Schools paid less this football season to rent the public school district’s stadium than the district did last year despite a recent school board vote that eliminated a 50-percent discount Kuemper previously had received.

That’s because Carroll Community School District leaders found ways to cut the costs of hosting games there and charged Kuemper the actual cost — rather than an hourly rate dictated by their recently updated rental policy — after Kuemper supporters voiced their displeasure about the elimination of the discount.

Kuemper now uses volunteers to help clean the stadium after games, and the Carroll district no longer has a custodian at the stadium during Friday games.

The custodians previously worked every Friday event at the stadium “in case something went wrong — the toilet paper needed to be replaced (or) a light stopped working,” said Casey Berlau, the Carroll Community School District superintendent. Now an activities director or a different staff person is there to help.

That change applies to Carroll and Kuemper games, Berlau said.

Kuemper parents and students started volunteering on Saturdays midway through the football season to help clean after the games, Kuemper President John Steffes said.

The result was a dramatic decrease in the costs for games.

For an Aug. 30 varsity football game this year, Kuemper Catholic was billed $624 for about four hours of stadium time, more than the $400 the school would have been charged last year with the former discount. But by the last game of the year on Oct. 25 — which was also four hours of stadium time — Kuemper was billed only $323.

“The last game of the season we had some volunteers help out the custodians Saturday morning, and that really cut their hours,” Steffes said.

To further cut costs, non-varsity events for both the Carroll and Kuemper schools now are held only on the west side of the stadium, said Randy Bissen, activities director at the Carroll Community School District.

“We try to keep people off the east side, because there aren’t that many people using it,” he said.

In the end, Kuemper was billed an average hourly rate of about $85, which is less than the $100-per-hour rate it was billed last year.

The kerfuffle over the rental fees began early this school year when Carroll school leaders sought to update their rental policy.

“The problem with this (old) policy is it was put together without any experience,” Gary Bengtson, the director of business affairs at the Carroll Community School District, said at the time. “It was done before football season, and we hadn’t even started renting it — we didn’t even know what our costs would be.”

The district’s school board unanimously approved an updated rental policy that appeared to levy a $200-per-hour rate for Kuemper’s games, with a $500 minimum fee and a $900 maximum. But school leaders agreed to find ways to reduce Kuemper’s costs.

“I think even within the policy, we still have the flexibility as we would with another entity that uses the stadium,” Berlau said. “In the end, Kuemper was billed for their actual costs. As we move forward, will we have to tweak the policy? Maybe. I feel good that the two schools are working together.”

In this week’s school board elections, Carroll School Board members Brad Jorgensen and Jon Sampson, who had voted for the new rental policy, ran for re-election and were defeated by newcomers Cindy Johnson and Onica Ulveling, the latter a Kuemper alumna and parent.

Kuemper announced today it will continue renting softball fields from the Carroll Community School District, which comes after the school recently met with the Carroll City Council to pursue the possibility of renting a softball field from the city instead.

Last spring, the Carroll Community School District billed Kuemper $930 to use the softball fields from May to July, a reduced rate from the full $1,860 it normally would have charged.

During talks about Kuemper’s possible use of the city’s “field seven” near Carroll Middle School, the city had said it would charge Kuemper $1,750 for the season but would waive the rental fee if Kuemper agreed to pay one-third of the city’s cost to pour concrete behind the home plate and for all materials to extend the dugouts and replace the roofs, which would be red and gray to partially match Kuemper’s red-and-gold colors.

Kuemper is still talking with the city about the possibility of using city fields for some practices or rain make-up games but plans to hold all regular games at the Carroll Schools stadium, according to a news release from Kuemper.

“Similar to finding efficiencies at the football stadium, we are confident that rental reductions will occur at the CCSD softball stadium, such as our student-athletes helping with clean up following games,” Steffes said in the release. “Our baseball players are already doing this after their contests at the Merchants Park baseball stadium.

Sharing major facilities in Carroll has been an efficient and practical arrangement for decades. We look forward to keeping this tradition of stewardship going strong in the future.”

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