This fast-growing Columbus company is changing the way high schools sell football tickets

Columbus Business First

COLUMBUS (Columbus Business First) — Columbus-based Hometown Ticketing is changing the way high schools sell tickets to Friday night football games, homecoming dances, concerts and school plays.

More than 10,000 schools nationwide have signed on with Hometown Ticketing’s digital ticketing platform, which ditches paper tickets and cash boxes.

“It’s an Expedia for high school sports,” said Lorien Parry Luehrs, president and chief operating officer of the company, which has quickly grown to 200 employees in five offices across the country, including in Texas, Georgia and Arizona.

“High schools have Nike deals, multimillion-dollar stadiums, media rights deals, but everyone was still walking in the gate with cash,” Luehrs said. “Every mom has an app for everything they do at school, for lunches, grades and attendance. The Millennial moms are looking for a place to manage all the different events and their ticket purchases.”

The business allows school officials to scan secure digital or printed tickets to admit patrons and control maximum capacity for events.

The digital process offered by Hometown allows fans to have tickets “right at their fingertips, so they don’t have to carry cash, and schools don’t have to worry about losing a cash box,” Luehrs said.

And schools don’t have to guess how much money is coming in for a specific event. Right now, “they don’t have the data,” she said.

“In an industry where they depend on that (revenue) to make their budgets work, it doesn’t have any way to notify someone to say, ‘Why don’t you come to the jamboree this weekend?’ or ‘Did you know that the Dublin Shamrocks made it to the state championship?’ ” Luehrs said.

The company’s network has grown to 10,000 schools since its relaunch in 2019. Before that, the company was offering white-label ticketing solutions to just a few dozen clients.

Since then, it also acquired a former competitor, TicketRoar, in 2019.

Beyond high schools, the company also counts nearly 200 small colleges as clients, along with 17 state athletic associations and 44 college conferences.

“We want to be the leading digital ticketing provider in the K-12 and college space,” Luehrs said.

At the same time, the company has found projecting revenue has been difficult since clients typically don’t have a lot of historical data on how many tickets they usually sell to school events.

Hometown charges a processing fee for each ticket sale, Luehrs said, something people are used to when they buy movie and concert tickets online.

The company’s main competitor is Eventbrite, which allows customers to sell tickets.

“Our competitive advantage and the value we bring is in our customer service,” Luehrs said. “About 70% of our company is customer success and a customer service call center. Offering hand-holding, education and training, and having a live person on the other end of the phone is our bread and butter. (School officials’) job is to take care of our kids, not run a ticketing program.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the company’s growth. School officials are even more interested now in cashless, touch-less options.

“It’s helped with adoption,” she said. “You’re not going to get rid of curbside pick-up. Uber Eats isn’t going anywhere. It’s more of a convenience thing.”

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