Athletic budgets face tough travel costs

Minor-league sports teams and smaller colleges are being hit especially hard by the rising costs of travel. And that means you could be paying more for concessions and tickets when you go to see your favorite team play.

An Associated Press story out today says minor league baseball's Pacific Coast League, which spans three time zones, may have to realign its divisions and schedules to reduce air travel.

Most teams were able to lock in good deals for the current season before the recent price surge, but they weren't prepared for the new baggage surcharges some airlines began imposing to offset jet fuel costs.

Tacoma Rainiers president Aaron Artman estimates the baggage fees will cost his team at least $100,000 this season. Some teams may even ship equipment overnight next year rather than throwing it on the plane with the team.

Also affected are mid-level and small colleges that use to budget for trips to far-away tournaments as a way to raise their schools' stature and reward their athletes. Some of those trips are now being canceled, and coaches are becoming part-time travel agents.

"We have coaches online just about every day trying to book flights at reasonable rates and they're nowhere close to where they were before,'' said athletic director Carl McAloose [of Florida Gulf Coast University]. "It's a guessing game. You don't know whether to lock in a rate. You just hope you get lucky.''

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