It was 6:40 p.m. on Friday, a good 50-plus minutes before tipoff for the Menomonee Falls-Marquette boys basketball game in the Indian gym, when my wife and I approached the doors of the school.
And if veteran teacher Falls High School teacher Sandy Swanson hadn't been standing on the other side of those doors, there was a good chance my wife and I would not have gotten in.
Swanson and I have known each other for the past 35 years, including a stint when I was the equipment manager and she the scorekeeper for the Falls North baseball team in 1975.
Gratefully, Swanson just shook her head at me in a slightly dismissive manner, pointed to her watch and opened the doors, which had been locked several minutes before because every seat in the place had been sold.
Count it up to the "J.P. Tokoto effect".
This is the way it was last year and likely will be for the next two years at Falls, as one of the state's top recruits continues to benefit the Falls School District's general fund every time there is a home game (the money does not go directly to the athletic department).
"It gets a little intense, but we like it as a team," said Tokoto of the atmosphere, noise and attention his skill has generated. He is expected sometime this school year to name the NCAA top 10 program he will likely attend starting in the fall of 2012.
Falls changed its ticket policy last week to reflect just such attention, limiting the number of tickets per person to six and making sure parents of varsity and junior varsity players for both teams would be able to get seated through a reserve presale system.
Also, all season, the gym will also be cleared after the 4 p.m. freshmen game, which is free of charge. This is being done so people don't come ultra-early thinking they can get into the varsity game for free and poach the best seats. Tickets for the varsity and junior varsity games will be sold starting at 5:30 p.m. Conference and family passes will be honored only up until the point the game is announced as a sell-out.
Last Friday, that happened at about 6:35 p.m. with normal tip-off scheduled for around 7:30 p.m.
Indian Athletic Director Dave Petroff said that the new policy was further adjusted after the Marquette game to allow for the parents of freshmen players for both teams to have their own set of reserve tickets. This will allow them to stay and watch their child's entire game and not have to go to the back of what is expected to be very long ticket lines at 5:30 p.m. for the varsity game once the freshmen contest is over.
"I had my name taken in vain a few times last Friday, but for the most part, people were pretty understanding," said Petroff. "…If you get here at 5:30 p.m. you will get in, but if you choose to wait until 7 p.m., likely you will not."
Petroff did say that everyone who was in line at 5:30 p.m. for the Marquette game did get in and there were relatively few turned away. In the past, Petroff normally scheduled 11 people to work a varsity basketball game, with some help from the Falls Police Department.
Since Tokoto's arrival, that has been bumped to 13 people with the help of three police officers (part of a larger pro-rated contract with the department).
The "Tokoto Effect" also has ramifications for area road games. It was recently announced that the varsity girl-boy doubleheader between Falls and Germantown scheduled for Dec. 18 at Germantown will now be played at the Wisconsin Lutheran College Fieldhouse in Wauwatosa.
Germantown Athletic Director Jack Klebesadel said that because of the change, at least 1,000 more people will be allowed to be seated and the chances of turning fans away, a great likelihood if the game remained at the smaller Warhawk gym, will largely be eliminated. The cost of $5 for both games (the girls will play at 6 p.m. and the boys at 8 p.m.) will remain the same, Klebesadel said.
Petroff has been asked by people why he doesn't pre-sale the tickets or move all his home games to larger sites away from the school? He has good answers for both questions.
"If we were to presale the tickets, that would effectively eat up two days a week of my secretary's life, and she has enough to do as it is," he said. "We can't afford to stop everything every three minutes to sell a ticket. We're not an NCAA Division I college with its own ticket department."
And as far as moving the games to larger quarters, Petroff's answer is easy.
"Why should we give up the home court advantage?" Petroff asked. "We know he (Tokoto) is the number one interest (in terms of basketball) in the area. No one else has what we have and there are people who want to see him."
"If you don't want to come here (and face the crowds), our road games are almost never sold out. Hop in a car and drive somewhere to see him."
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