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Hammond benefits from neutral site host

J.D. Summerlin/Daily Star

UNDER THE LIGHTS -- Hammond and Ponchatoula took the field at Strawberry Stadium to conclude their 2017 seasons last week. Hammond served as host for the game and they plan to play more games at Strawberry Stadium in the future.

The Hammond vs. Ponchatoula rivalry concluded the 2017 regular season for both teams and with the setting being Strawberry Stadium, the game had a playoff feel to it.

With the rivalry being moved back to Strawberry Stadium for this year's matchup, the question of bringing the big game back to Strawberry Stadium was raised by coaches and fans. Strawberry Stadium used to play host to Hammond games in the past and bringing back the tradition was in talks.

Although Strawberry Stadium may not become the permanent home for the Ponchatoula-Hammond rivalry, Hammond coach Steve Jones called his first game at Southeastern's stadium a success and the team plans to have one home game played every year at the site.

When Jones arrived to Hammond, he proposed to Ponchatoula coach Hank Tierney a two-year deal to play the next two Ponchatoula-Hammond games in Strawberry Stadium, which would have included each team to split the cost of renting the stadium, along with splitting the ticket sale gate.

Tierney said he discussed this option with the school administration and they came to a conclusion that giving up a home game was not advantageous to the school's football program on a financial level. Ponchatoula has been successful in fan attendance with every game last year being standing room only. Spending money to rent a field when fans already enjoy coming to The Swamp was not something the team and fan base would be interested in.

Tierney made sure to clarify that Strawberry Stadium is a great venue for high school football, but having the keeping the Green Wave's game at Ponchatoula would bring in more money for the program, rather than splitting money for two games each year while paying rent for the use of the stadium.

Hammond, on the other hand, is still looking to build a foundation for a program and using Strawberry Stadium to generate interest and ticket sales worked to Hammond's advantage in last week's rivalry game. Jones said the gate for the Hammond program was over $12,000 and was double the amount of the Tors next best home game.

Before the game, Jones was cautiously optimistic about renting the stadium, because his team averages around $5,000 of revenue for home game ticket sales and the rent of Strawberry Stadium was $3,000, not including security and staff to work the game.

With last week's gate, the Tors made money and they plan to have a jamboree at Strawberry Stadium in the spring.