School district policy could be barrier to making money off stadium turf

Dance studio owner Terri Auten was upset when, after at least 15 years of holding dance recitals in school auditoriums, she was told two years ago that she could no longer rent the space.

The Rock Hill school district's policy for community use of school facilities, which has been in place for years but never enforced, prevents businesses from renting buildings or other school property, regardless of whether they will make money off the event.

Auten said she'd like to see the policy changed, and school board member Jim Vining agrees with her.

Vining said he thinks the policy will keep the district from making money off the artificial turf field that will be installed at District Three Stadium this spring. He will share his concerns with the rest of the board the next time turf is brought up for discussion.

"You have claimed that we're going to make money off it, but our policy prevents it," he said. "There's just not that many nonprofits wanting to rent the stadium."

When the board discussed whether to put artificial turf in the stadium this fall, one thing most board members spoke favorably of was the way in which the district would be able to open up the facility to the community for year-round use.

Luanne Kokolis, a district associate superintendent, said it will be up to the board to look at the facilities policy and decide if it should apply to the stadium. It is within the board's power to write a separate policy for using the stadium, she said.

It remains to be seen whether the nonprofit rule will be a barrier to renting the stadium at all.

Brian Vaughan, facilities manager for the district, said he receives requests to rent school facilities almost daily, but only a few are businesses. Vaughan said once the word got out those requests wouldn't be accepted, people stopped asking.

Many sports-related groups that want to rent facilities in Rock Hill are nonprofit organizations, said Robert Thomas, sports marketing coordinator for the York County Convention & Visitor's Bureau.

"A lot of them are nonprofit, and if they were to use a school district facility, they could sign their own paperwork," he said. "That would be the most optimal way to do it."

But some sports groups do still make a profit, even if that's not why they want to rent a venue.

As of now, there is a way a for-profit can get around the policy and rent facilities. If the visitor's bureau makes the request, the district can grant it because the bureau is a nonprofit group, said John Hair, associate superintendent for administrative services.

Thomas said the bureau would only do that if the event was expected to "put heads on beds," bringing in tourism dollars for the county.

Vaughan said he can remember one instance when that has happened and said the district is considering whether groups will be allowed to use that tactic in the future.