By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
The concession stands at Ed W. Monroe Memorial Stadium have recently been broken into four separate times, resulting in losses and property damage.
The first break-in happened the last weekend of September.
“We discovered Monday morning. There was a lot of property damaged and things that were taken,” said Keri Wootton, Vandegrift Football Booster Club concessions co-chair. “Things were strewn across the parking lot.”
Some equipment was taken, as well as candy and food, and some equipment was broken. There was damage to the doors on both home and away sides. Since the investigation is ongoing, Wootton did not share the total in losses.
As someone who dedicates 50 to 60 hours to concessions during home game weeks, she was saddened to see the crime.
“It broke my heart to see the disrespect to the school and the program,” she said.
Since the first break-in, security cameras have been installed inside both home and away side concession stands.
The security company moved quickly after the first break-in, Wootton said, and the three subsequent break-ins, which happened Oct. 1 -2, have been captured by the video cameras. The second break-in was on Tuesday 1 p.m., the third was Wednesday a.m. and the fourth Wednesday p.m.
What’s remarkable is that concession volunteers scrambled to get everything back in order for the games last week and especially the Round Rock game on Oct. 4. A former football parent and longtime sponsor helped with an in-kind donation to help get things up and running again.
“We’re sad it happened and hoping that it’s not going to happen again,” Wootton said. “We’ve taken the appropriate measures in protecting the space and school.”
The booster board is in communications with the school resource officers and other officials on the cases. They do not know if the cases are linked.
Home games draw thousands of fans — for example some 8,000 people attended the Sept. 30 football game against rival Cedar Park HS, which is believed to be the biggest crowd ever at Monroe Memorial, Wootton said. Accommodating the hungry crowds through concessions is important on several levels.
Tens of thousands of dollars are raised throughout the football season on concessions alone. Sales are the most significant fundraiser for the football program and about half of the proceeds from those sales go back into the program.
“Money that is made is put back into the school and provides tools (the students) need to be successful,” Wootton said.
During home weeks, there are four games when stands are operated. At a typical Friday night varsity game, concessions bring in well over $5,000, she said.
“The numbers we pull in with concessions rival restaurants,” she added.
One example is with beverages. The concession stands can go through 200 cases of beverages a week, that’s 36 cans or bottles per case.
To prepare for that volume, many hours and days of careful planning go into budgeting, ordering, receiving, stocking and displaying.
Wootton has taken concessions to a new level over the past three years. She tweaked the process and those changes have helped to increase sales. “We’ve had a 20 precent increase in the profit margin,” she said.
She created co-chairs for concessions, with a varsity and non varsity parent so each has an opportunity to watch their son play football. This year Lynne Gillespey is the co-chair.
“We divide and conquer,” Wootton said.
On home game weeks, Wootton is typically the first one in and last one out of the concession stands. That dedication earned her the title of “volunteer of the year” in the program last year.
Wootton jokes that she is unofficially the chief operating officer of the booster. She is also in charge of the booster social media and is the founder of the football moms group Viper Moms.
Although the recent break-ins have been a set back for Viper concessions, Wootton and the rest of the volunteers are prevailing. Like the Round Rock games, they will be open and ready for business as usual on homecoming week where the varsity team plays Westwood on Oct. 18.
There are no better events that draw the community together like home football games with players, band, Legacies, students, parents and fans, Wootton said, “it brings our entire Four Points community together.”