The technology that allows consumers to purchase sporting and other event tickets online is not breaking news. For years consumers have conveniently purchased their movie, concert, and large sporting event tickets online through companies like Fandango, Ticketmaster, and StubHub (to name just a few). Yet, one segment that continued to lag behind the times was at the secondary education level – largely because the platforms on the market were not affordable and not designed with a High school’s needs in mind.
High school gyms and auditoriums across the country have largely operated the “old fashioned way” through an in-person and cash-only system at the gate. That started to change in 2016 when Ohio-based HomeTown Ticketing started a digital ticketing pilot project for a Columbus school district. The development of that ticketing system eventually led to digitally ticketing events for more than 20 schools in the Columbus area.
Over the next couple of years, with feedback and input from athletic directors and superintendents, HomeTown designed a platform, tailor-made for high schools, that added value and quickly gained traction throughout the country.
When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, it accelerated the need for schools to find solutions to monitor and limit capacity in many states and eliminate the exchange of paper to comply with state and local regulations.
Relying on HomeTown’s cost-effective digital ticketing platform, which does not require its clients to pay any upfront costs, and its reliable customer support proved to be an extremely valuable solution that completely elevated the ability of thousands of high school administrators to communicate with students, families, and fans for purposes of recording cancellations, refunds, and other gameday metrics. It also allowed schools to access funds in real-time, providing for a more secure and efficient event.
“Digital ticketing started to take hold nationwide towards the end of 2018,” said Lorien Parry Luehrs, president and chief operating officer at HomeTown Ticketing, Inc. “For the general consumer, the acceleration and demand came largely as a result of millennial moms and dads wanting more convenient purchasing options.”
Luehrs, who has more than 15 years of experience in sports marketing, event management, and developing strategic business opportunities between corporations and educational-based athletic and governing institutions, manages the day-to-day operations, national marketing strategy, and team development for HomeTown.
“On the business side, Hometown creates partnership alignments with companies like Hudl, the leading athletics video platform and BSN sports apparel. Our association partnerships, on the other hand, include governing bodies from Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Texas, and Oregon.”
Now serving over 12,000 schools throughout the country and growing rapidly, HomeTown Ticketing is the leading digital ticketing platform for high schools in the nation.
Over the past two years, HomeTown Ticketing has seen massive growth, especially in the high school sports space due in part by the demand of parents for convenient options, and by growing confidence of high school administrators in the value of the platform — even after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the last decade, consumer confidence in online purchasing has also massively increased. Today, buying almost anything at the touch of a button is no longer viewed as a privilege but a right.
Live sporting events have quickly evolved, eliminating the physical paper ticket, and instead, transitioning to digital ticketing entirely.
For high schools across the country, digital ticketing has become the new norm, despite it being one of the last categories to make the move to a more modernized system.
For those fans who rarely carry cash and are digitally equipped with platforms like Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay, implementing a digital ticketing service makes all the difference.
For event organizers, traditional ticketing platforms left room for accounting errors and the high risk of misplaced or stolen funds with cash on hand, until they could be manually deposited by the school administrator, according to Luehrs.
“With our ticketing platform, not only can fans purchase and manage all of their tickets at the touch of a button but the funds are available in real-time for the school to see and automatically deposited in the school’s account at the time of purchase,” she said.
“For fans, it’s about easy access and options, and that’s what HomeTown Ticketing provides — the ability for every school, no matter the size, to offer its fans options to purchase tickets from anywhere at any time, while understanding each fan has different preferences.”
Today, the way parents and students communicate with their schools has evolved. Daily communication now flows digitally – from email to text messages. Even traditional textbooks are being replaced by Chromebooks at many school districts nationwide.
“The way students access homework; how parents access their child’s grades; the way school lunches and books are purchased, and even how school announcements are received – it’s all digital,” Luehrs explained.
For schools themselves, Luehrs believes the pandemic was a bigger catalyst for change, as administrators needed more efficient ways to manage events safely. “Once they started using our platform, they began to see that our service benefitted them in ways which included saving staff time and money on the accounting and handling of cash, as well as advanced ticketing sales and 24-hour customer support.”
One of the biggest complaints of administrators early on was the complexity and lack of support for digital ticketing systems on the market. Many found them hard to navigate and even less friendly on the customer support side.
HomeTown Ticketing’s platform took the feedback and developed and integrated tools that make communication with event organizers and attendees all the more simplistic. They also put an emphasis on building out a knowledgeable customer support team to meet the demands of its client base.
“When fans purchase their tickets online, their tickets are immediately emailed to them. That initial email includes custom event details, including a map of where the venue is, parking information, gate times, and of course, any real-time changes to the event itself.”
In 2021, HomeTown launched its new Fan App to make one-touch ticketing a reality and managing events even easier. Using the app gives fans the ability to purchase and redeem tickets right from their smartphone while allowing schools to send real-time updates through email, text message, and push notifications, so that anyone connected to the system can see game day and other information immediately.
“To better manage capacity, our platform offers a seat map of the stadium, gym, or auditorium itself, so fans know exactly where they’ll be sitting at any given event,” Luehrs pointed out. “Fans can select their specific seats, while schools can manage capacity by restricting which seats can be purchased.”
Luehrs gave Innovation and Tech Today a quick tutorial on how the app works, depending upon whether you are accessing the platform as a school or fans.
For fans- after downloading the app, they simply search for and save their favorite schools from a list. Then, purchase event tickets or season passes, and redeem them at the event site.
“When you make a purchase, all your tickets are saved in one place. All you need to do is tap the event in the app at the gate, which pulls up a QR code to be scanned for entry at the door. For fans that may not want to use the app- tickets can still be purchased through a link on the school’s website to print and bring into the event.”
For schools selling tickets — they have immediate access to ticket data in real-time and revenue generated from ticket purchases within 24-hours. “HomeTown never touches a school’s funds. The platform’s built-in, filtered reporting tools make it easy to track sales and income on a per event, venue, or school basis so that all your accounts and records are organized.”
In order to make the system affordable for any size school, HomeTown implemented a per ticket fee model rather than charge upfront fees to the school. By collecting a fee on tickets sold, it allows schools of any size to use the platform and not be responsible for costs even if events are canceled or aren’t well attended.
“We chose this model because we believe every school should be able to use digital ticketing — not just larger schools with bigger revenue streams,” Luehrs said. “It’s why there is no up-front or yearly cost. It’s simply based on the number of tickets sold to events and it has been incredibly well received.”
There is no question that our digital frontier is continuing to adapt to every industry, providing companies and innovators with more ways to develop one-stop-shop models to better cater to their customers.
The ability for digital ticketing platforms to provide flexibility, convenience, and security to event organizers, partners, and attendees lends favor to platforms like HomeTown Ticketing, which finally found a way to bring value and convenience to high schools and their fan bases across the country.