Youth Football agreed to donate $10k in return for concession rights

LACONIA — City Councilor Matt Lahey said yesterday that awarding the concession stand operation during Friday night home football games at the High School to Laconia Youth Football was previously known to nearly everyone involved.

Lahey, who is the chair of the Huot Regional Technical Education Center Renovation/LHS Athletic Complex Fundraising Committee, said the Key Club advisers, who are teachers at the High School, had been told earlier this year that they would likely not be able to continue using the concession stand  during home football games this fall.

"I was aware of it and I supported it," said Lahey of the decision to make the switch. He said Laconia Youth Football leaders pledged they would raise $10,000 for the cost of the renovation and expansion project in exchange for the football home game concession stand rights.

Rod Roy is the president of Laconia Youth Football. Yesterday he said he also thought the Kiwanis Club of Laconia — the sponsoring organization of the community-service oriented Key Club — was aware of the decision but had no idea who was designated to tell them.

"My understanding was that the Key Club was going to get the other stuff, including hosting the soccer match this year," Roy said.

The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has chosen Laconia as one of the hosts for this year's soccer playoffs.

He also said he wasn't privy to any discussions between the school administration, the Key Club advisers or the Kiwanis Club, whose members made their displeasure over the students losing concession stand rights known to the School Board Tuesday night. They claimed that school officials had been stringing them along for months, saying a final decision on who would operate the concession stand had not yet been made.

Kiwanians told the board the Key Club's association with football game concessions dates back six decades.

Roy said the building that housed the concession stand at the old football field was built three years ago by Laconia Youth Football and volunteer labor from the Bean family of Gilford. All of the equipment, including a grill, three Fryolator, a popcorn machine and refrigeration units, was purchased by Laconia Youth Football.

He said that for the three years after the newer concession stand was built, but before the Bank of New Hampshire Stadium project was on the city's radar, Laconia Youth Football shared the space and split the cost of supplies and the revenue with the Key Club. He also said the space-sharing agreement was arranged by former Principal Steve Beals, who told Roy he was reluctant to give the concession stand rights solely to Laconia Youth Football.

When asked why the joint relationship didn't work, Roy said in his opinion the two agencies had different missions — Laconia Youth Football needs money to support its program and the Key Club is more about civic participation and less about money.

Roy said Laconia Youth Football is one of the smaller youth football programs in the state and needs to be able to offer scholarships to the children who want to play but can't afford the $100 annual per child registration fee.

"We don't want to turn away any kids," he said, adding the number of children seeking scholarships from Laconia Youth Football increases every year. Drawing from a number of cities and towns in the Lakes Region, Roy said there have been times when they thought the program would end because there weren't enough children participating who could pay the dues.

Roy said the Huot project and stadium construction included a new concession stand and Laconia Youth Football donated the older stand to the school district for use as an equipment shed. "That's a $12,000 building," he said.

He said that Laconia Youth Football initially wanted the Friday night football concessions in exchange for the building but offered an additional $10,000 to the stadium project — a proposal he said Lahey and former Superintendent of School Bob Champlin accepted. The pair's goal was to privately raise $1 million to supplement the public funding of the project.

Roy also recalls making the arrangements at a meeting in the Media Room of the High School about six months ago.

"I don't recall specifically who was at the meeting but I know (School Board Chair Joe) Cormier was there," he said.

At Tuesday night's School Board meeting, Cormier said he didn't recall who made the decision but said Champlin was empowered to make the decision himself.