West Allis — High school athletes, instead of their fans, will be doing the wave pretty soon to raise cash for their sports programs.
They'll be waving Wisconsin State Fair-bound drivers off Greenfield Avenue and into their parking lot at 82nd Street right across from the fair. Last year, they raised $50,000 after expenses that sports teams at both Central and Nathan Hale high schools split proportionately.
The booster clubs from both schools run the fundraiser during the 11 days of the fair, Aug. 1 through 11. A few drivers believe in high school athletics so much that they toss in an extra $5 over and above the parking price to boost the kids over the financial hurdles, said Alderman Marty Weigel, who plays a key role in the fundraiser.
The parking lot is on city land partly slated for hotel development next year. The booster clubs started organizing the parking fundraiser four years ago with just a small parking lot on 82nd Street where seven flood-damaged homes had been razed, Weigel said. Since then, the lot expanded dramatically with the razing of the former Mykonos restaurant and a large foundry.
Sports skills, life skills
Weigel acknowledged that some neighbors would rather the lot were not there because they too offer fair parking on their properties.
"The neighbors probably would fill faster," Weigel acknowledged.
But there's more than fundraising going on.
"In parking cars, there's a lesson for some kids on being on time and having to earn money," Weigel said.
"The benefits are just as meaningful as what we do in sports," agreed former West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board member George Sotiros, who is now varsity head coach of the Hale girls basketball team. Working the lot teaches life skills, not just sports skills, he said, and it promotes togetherness.
"It's a rare opportunity for both high schools to work together," Sotiros said.
An aid to taxpayers
In his view Weigel said that not taking advantage of a strong revenue source would be a disservice to taxpayers. The parking fee is anywhere from $20 on a sunny Saturday afternoon to $5, perhaps on a weeknight. The fee changes depending on the crowd, the grandstand show and other factors.
But to not shoot for that extra revenue, Weigel said, "would be an example of blatant government inefficiency."
Instead, he said, "it's an example of a municipality working with parents and the school district and with business."
One business, for example, even provided portable lights so families don't have to find their way through the lot in the dark. Those lights would have cost hundreds of dollars to provide, Weigel estimated.
While the big lot across from the fair is operating, more parking will continue to be provided in the West Allis City Hall parking lot and again, the proceeds will be split between the high schools.