Kiwanians irate about LHS football concessions switch

LACONIA — After 60 years of operating the concession stand for Friday night home games, the Laconia High School Key Club has apparently been replaced by the Laconia Youth Football Association — possibly because of a donation made to the Huot Technical Center renovation/expansion and new football stadium project.

A contingent of Laconia Kiwanians forcefully protested the decision at last night's School Board meeting.

The decision was apparently made administratively by former Superintendent Bob Champlin.

"Are you telling me they gave a donation? Is that what you're saying?" asked Kiwanis Club President Scott Laurent after listening to School Board Chair Joe Cormier explain the reasoning behind the decision by saying that when the district started fund raising for the Huot/stadium project, Laconia Youth Football said they wanted more time in the concession stand.

The community service oriented Key Club is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club and, according to Laurent, the home football game concession stand revenue is the largest source of money — about 80 percent or $3,000 — generated by the club that typically has 20 to 25 high school students as members, as well as teachers as advisers.

Laconia Youth Football is a not-for-profit football league that focuses on younger players and is not exclusive to Laconia students. It has no formal affiliation with the School District.

Laurent said the Kiwanis Club reached out to the School District on April 1 and was told that no decisions had been made regarding the concession stand. He said he spoke with Champlin and Cormier.

"At that time, we were assured no decisions has been made and we would be included in the discussion going forward," said a letter Laurent sent to the School Board.

Laurent also mentioned a communication he got from Champlin in March saying "he feared he may have given something away that was not his to give".

After the meeting, Laurent told The Daily Sun that Cormier was copied on that e-mail from Champlin and Kiwanians made sure current Superintendent Terri Forsten had a copy as well.

After Champlin's retirement, Laurent said publicly that he contacted Cormier two more times by e-mail and each time he was told, "No decision has been made and we will keep you informed."

Apparently, the rest of the School Board was also kept in the dark place about the decision.

"We've taken 60 years of tradition and thrown it out the window," said School Board member Scott Vachon.

"Why is this the first I've heard of this?" he asked.

"I don't have an answer for that," Cormier replied.

Cormier said the Kiwanis members could have the concessions for all of the other events that will be played on the new field, including soccer, field hockey and lacrosse.

He said he recalls the conversation with Laurent about the concession stand in March and said somebody later made the decision to give the home football concessions to Laconia Youth Football but he didn't know who. Cormier also said the superintendent has the power to do that.

He said he asked the school administration for a policy regarding high school concessions before Champlin retired but to date he hasn't gotten one. He noted there have been a lot of changes in the district this year and fears the decision on the concession stand may have been "put on the back burner."

Aside from Champlin's sudden retirement for health reasons in April, the district also has a new director for the Huot Technical Center and a new athletic director, Craig Kozens, who is technically in charge of the concession stand.

Cormier said the Key Club can run the concession stand for the other events that will be held at the field including a soccer tournament, field hockey and lacrosse.

"Let's be serious," said Vachon. "The football games are the biggest draw."

"Are you looking for time or are you looking to bump Youth Football?" Cormier asked Laurent.

Kiwanian Kathy Calvin said the two agencies had tried to work together about five years ago and there were some problems. She said the high school principal at the time had to mediate a solution and gave the Key Club the right to operate the home football game concessions.

The School Board made no changes to the concession stand policy but did say it would create a written policy for adoption by the board about future use of the concession stand.

Outside the meeting, the five Kiwanians remained unhappy, with both the outcome and the explanation.

"There's some funny business going on," said Laurent.