KODIAK, Alaska — Reduced ferry service to southwest Alaska has forced high school athletic teams to take more expensive flights or cut down on travel altogether.
Kodiak teams must fly or take the ferry for off-island competitions.
For years, the state ferry system has given the school district a deal, making the ferry more affordable than flying. But with the ferry Tustumena laid up for repairs, teams must look at the more costly option of flying, KMXT reported Thursday.
The football team’s eight-week season included seven weeks with ferry travel. The schedule for the ferry Kennicott, which has picked up additional sailings between Kodiak and Homer, did not match all the dates, requiring air travel during three weeks.
For one trip, 60 players could ride the ferry for about $4,000, while flying costs more than $13,000.
Kodiak High School Athletic Director Bryan Ferris estimated an additional $27,000 being spent on football travel alone this year. If Kodiak makes the playoffs, money will have to be found for an additional three weeks of travel.
“Cost to the district and to these clubs and booster club is astronomical not having the ferry in line,” Ferris said.
The cross country team had to cancel a weeklong ferry trip and rearrange its entire schedule. The swim team will cut half its travelers this year, while travel costs will still rise about 100 percent, Ferris said.
“It’s great when we can send a whole team, you know, even kids that might not be your starting five, your best seven varsity runners, but you’re sending 30 kids to race in a community race,” Ferris said. “We won’t have those opportunities as we would have if the ferry was running.”
Teams will have to come up with additional money through fundraising because travel budgets through the district and booster club are already set.
The situation also affects teams coming to play in Kodiak.
“West Anchorage was going to come down on the ferry, they’re going to still come down by flying, but instead of bringing 60 kids for about $4,000 they’re going to bring 15 kids for about $4,600,” he said.
While there’s hope the Tustumena will be operational again by October, Ferris said more delays could mean financial concerns for winter sports teams, too.
“Traditionally in the winter we travel a few less times on the ferry,” he said. “So I hope they align with either the Kennicott or whatever’s running at that time, but I couldn’t tell you if they will lose any of their weekends of activity yet.”