Ticket sales on track despite fans’ unrest

by Samuel Gordon

MenâÄôs hockey and menâÄôs basketball tickets are on track to sell at their regular rates for the 2011-12 season, despite recent on-court and on-ice mediocrity and an announced plan to increase costs for some season ticket holders.

Fans have voiced their dismay over a new Gopher Points system in which ticketholders will be awarded points based on years of consecutive ticket ownership, donations and ties to the University of Minnesota.

The Gopher Points plan was finalized last month and will not impact the 2011-12 season, but will begin for the 2012-13 season for both sports.

The voiced concerns from fans over blogs and public forums have not translated to sluggish sales, though. According to associate athletic director Jason LaFrenz, MinnesotaâÄôs hockey program has retained approximately 90 percent of its season ticket holders from a year ago.

LaFrenz, who oversees the ticket office, said the tickets are selling at a normal rate, and there are more than 1,500 people on a waiting list that hope to land the approximately 600 available seats at Mariucci Arena next season. Those seats will not be available to the general public.

The renewal deadline for hockey tickets was June 10.

LaFrenz said specific numbers for basketball renewal rates wonâÄôt be available for a few weeks because the July 13 deadline for renewal just recently passed, but said he expects the retention rate to be similar to hockeyâÄôs.

These deadlines for renewing are soft deadlines. The ticket office issues phone calls to each ticketholder if he or she hasnâÄôt renewed tickets prior to the deadline, offering a final chance at ticket renewal.

âÄúWe usually spend the next two weeks or so calling everybody that hasnâÄôt renewed, saying, âÄòHey you missed the deadline. Do you still want to renew?âÄôâÄù LaFrenz said.

âÄúWe go back to everybody because they know they have some extra time after [the deadline].âÄù

Though sales this season are on par with normal rates according to LaFrenz, it remains to be seen how the Gophers Points system will affect future seasons.

Among other things, fans have complained that ticket owners with the most points will get their first selection of preferred seats. Those preferred seats will require an additional donation on top of the base cost.

This means fans that have held the same seat for a number of years would not be guaranteed to keep those seats.

LaFrenz said he is uncertain of the effect the plan will have on 2012-13 sales, but that the ticket office will cross that bridge when it gets there.

âÄúItâÄôs hard to say [the effect it will have]. There are a lot of seats in both stadiums that it wonâÄôt affect,âÄù he said.

âÄúThe seats that we struggle to sell for basketball are the ones that donâÄôt have any donations associated with them. I donâÄôt really see it affecting those unsold seats at all.âÄù