The Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) will have to dip deeper into its pockets to stage this year’s ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships inside the National Stadium, with the 2016 budget climbing by over $13 million when compared to last year.Speaking at yesterday’s launch at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston, ISSA President, Dr Walton Small, told The Gleaner that it will cost the organisers well over $80 million to stage this year’s showpiece event, an increase on the approximately $67 million that it cost to execute last year’s ‘Champs’.Title sponsors GraceKennedy has certainly thrown their support behind the event, pumping $54 million directly into this year’s event as a part of a wider $100-million investment, with FLOW strengthening their partnership as exclusive telecoms sponsors with an $81-million injection, which covers the next three years.Small underlined security, which has increased from approximately $8 million to over $10 million this year, along with venue rental, food and electrical/information systems as the major expenses being undertaken.COSTS ARE UP”Last year, it was about $67 million in terms of cost to stage Champs, and it has increased to over $80 million,” Small noted. “Just in terms of the appreciation of the whole business of security, we have put in some serious money towards security; rental of the stadium has gone up, the expense of the food has also increased.”The electronic aspect of Champs has really stepped up in terms of cost. We wanted the improvements, for instance, around Stadium East, we are putting in additional systems over there so that the coaches and students can be comfortable,” said Small.Still, Small said he is comfortable with the level of readiness heading into the March 15-19 championships.”We are extremely pleased. Last year with the patrons not being able to come in really had a damper on the entire ISSA organisation, and we have gone all out to change that,” he said.Don Wehby, CEO of GraceKennedy, spoke to the company’s efforts to improve the event and outlined several initiatives.The title sponsors will be awarding $25,000 for each new record to team or individual. The funds will go towards an approved school project to be identified by the record-breaking team or individual.GraceKennedy will also be rolling out a high-school affinity credit card programme through its subsidiary, First Global Bank, which will not only give cardholders special school-branded cards, but will also provide them with an opportunity to give back to their alma mater as well, through its reward set-up. This programme will be launched on March 15.DREAM FUND PROMOTIONHe also spoke on the company’s Dream Fund promotion, which will see $5 million raised to assist three schools – one from each county, with the purchasing of equipment.FLOW’s sponsorship manager, Stephen Miller, noted his company’s wide-ranging sponsorship of sport and its commitment to these championships over the years.”We have provided total commitment for the past 12 years of more than $200 million,” he stated. “I also want to bring to your attention the ongoing efforts to assist some of our top schools to prepare for competing by offsetting some of the cost that they face.”Through our Journey to Champs programme, we have committed an additional $1 million this year in direct donation to the top-performing schools which will be participating in this year’s competition,” added Miller.Chairman of the organising committee, Colleen Montaque, announced that tickets will go on sale on March 12.Entry will be free for the bleachers and grandstand on the opening day of the championships.On Wednesday and Thursday, tickets will cost $100 (children) and $500 adults (for both sections). The price increases to $500 and $350 for students in uniform for bleachers tickets for Friday, with grandstand tickets going for 3,500.Saturday’s marquee day will cost patrons $1,500 for bleachers tickets and $4,500 for a seat in the grandstand. Season tickets will cost $9,000 for Category One and $8,000 for Category Two.