By Judy Steffes Special to Published Aug 19, 2008 at 5:04 AM

RACINE -- In an effort to improve safety and security at high school events, Safe Sport Zone of Racine unveils a new online ticketing program.

"This is a free, web-based program schools can use to ensure a safer environment," said Jay Hammes, athletic director at Racine Horlick High School and Certified Athletic Administrator.

"All schools are concerned about security and this helps school districts provide a safer environment by monitoring and controlling the attendees at the event," said Hammes, who noted the popularity of online ticketing by the airlines and local movie theaters.

"Once I get through the security checkpoints at the airport, I feel pretty darn safe. With the changes in society, safety at schools is becoming the number one priority."

Milwaukee Public Schools have been searching for ways to curb student violence for years. In January 2007, a fight erupted after a basketball game at Bradley Tech High School; 20 people were arrested and the district passed a ban on cell phones to prevent violence.

Hammes said the online ticketing program would specifically identify the ticket holder by name.

"Some of the larger urban schools have tried selling advance tickets, but there was no name on the ticket as a way of preventing violence and that hasn't worked effectively," said Hammes whose school in Racine started a ticket pre-sale program last December.

"Matching the pre-sold ticket with an I.D. is just like what happens at airport security."

Each online ticket will be sold with a 75-cent surcharge, a minimal expense, according to Hammes when you consider other outlets are charging a service fee upwards of $3 per ticket.

While security will improve, Hammes admitted gate revenue may take a hit. "It will hurt sales because you wouldn't have a crowd anywhere near if you would have sold tickets at the gate," he said.

Hammes said ticket holders for games that are canceled or rescheduled for weather-related reasons would be reimbursed or their ticket would be valid at a rescheduled event.

The Safe Sport Zone online ticketing program has received endorsements from National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) of Indianapolis, Indiana and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) of Indianapolis.

NIAAA director Bruce Whitehead said his group endorsed Safe Sport Zone for several reasons. "This is a service that goes along the lines of Ticketmaster, but it has the ability to limit who can purchase the tickets and it's not an online service that charges exorbitant fees," he said.

Whitehead predicted a learning curve with the program because of the number of schools that will not provide walk-up ticket sales.

"Schools that decide to use this service for contests will have to do a very good job of educating their public about purchasing tickets in advance," he said. "However, as the program advances, it will get more sophisticated where tickets could be sold at the gate."

The National Federation of State High Schools Association recently published an article on Safe Sport Zone, which discussed a survey by master teachers who cited their most important prerequisite to success in the classroom. "The unanimous response was: provide me with a safe and secure environment. The same feeling must persist for our after-school events as well," said Hammes.

The Safe Sport Zone online ticketing program has already received verbal commitments from schools in Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit.

Milwaukee Rufus King basketball coach Jim Gosz plans on using online ticketing for his Dec. 13 basketball tournament at Marquette University's Al McGuire Center.

"The online ticketing will make it easier for people throughout the state to get a hold of tickets conveniently," said Gosz, who stressed the goal is "convenience for the fan and hassle-free sales." 

Judy Steffes Special to

Judy is a Milwaukee native who is ever exploring the country. Her favorite mode of travel is her 21-speed, blue Centurion bicycle, which she bought after high school. Judy has worked in the local media for the past 20 years. "I need to do something to support my biking habit."

Judy has an extensive history in radio news, having worked at WISN, WUWM, WTMJ, WKTY in La Crosse and WBKV in West Bend. A strong interest in sports also had Judy reporting for ESPN Radio covering the Packers, Buck, Brewers and Badgers. "One of my first Brewer games at County Stadium the security guy yelled as I walked into the locker room ‘LADY IN THE LOCKER ROOM.’ Now it’s so commonplace. But that story makes me sound really old."

Judy is currently working at WISN-TV in Milwaukee. She is a freelance writer and her pieces have been seen in The Small Business Times and The Business Journal. Her travel journal has appeared in Minnesota Trails Magazine, The Statesman and the West Bend Daily News, to name a few.

Aside from biking, running and being active in her community, Judy is known as someone who is "very, very thrifty." "I get candles for Christmas. My friends call them my space heaters because I normally keep the heat in my house at 40 degrees during the winter. It’s not that I can’t afford to turn up the thermostat, I just hate paying for heat."

Judy said her "conservative attitude" plays a part in her bike tours ... not needing to pay for gas and frequently spending nights camping inside churches. "First of all, it makes me feel safe since I’m traveling alone and second all you’re doing is sleeping, so why pay for that. It’s no wonder I can’t ever get someone to travel with me."

Judy grew up in Whitefish Bay and graduated from Dominican High School and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Judy is the second oldest among seven siblings and spends a lot of her time working as a "park tester" along with her eight nieces and nephews.