Known as the Lincoln Midget Football League since its inception in the late 1940s, the fall-season program for boys and girls in grades 4-8 is undergoing a rebranding process that includes a name change and a first-ever spectator fee.
Citing a decrease in player numbers and a subsequent dip in revenue, spokesmen for the nonprofit organization now called Lincoln Youth Football say the league is raising its player registration fee to $275 and will charge a gate fee of $1 per spectator.
The shrinking league enrollment follows a national trend connected to the fear of concussion, league president Dr. Joel T. Cramer remarked at a March breakfast meeting of the Lincoln Sunrise Optimist Club, which has operated the league’s concession stand for the past 29 years.
“We provide the latest in safety features, including top-of-the-line helmets, but the trend is something we’re seeing nationwide,” Cramer said in response to a question about the shrinking numbers.
Cramer said the league had as many as 1,300 players as recently as 2011, but the drop has been precipitous over the past half-dozen seasons; 892 registered last season. The league plays games on eight Sunday afternoons beginning the Sunday after Labor Day at the league complex at First and South streets.
The new policy of charging spectators is expected to have minimal effect on attendance, League Commissioner Mike Selvage told the club. At a rate of 900 players, with three family members accompanying each player, the move could generate more than $20,000 in new revenue.
Charging a small fee for spectators to view youth sports is nothing new, said Selvage, noting that the Salvation Army has for a number of years had a $1 spectator fee to watch Small Fry Basketball League games.
To register for the 2018 season, check out the new website and sign-up process at www.lincolnyouthfootballleague.com.
The registration fee includes equipment, and scholarships are available. Registration continues through July 21.