Men’s basketball and hockey ticket renewals on par

Gophers fans had to pay an additional $100, $250 or $400 donation on top of their season tickets, but that didn’t stop fans from purchasing them.

Andrew Krammer

 

Gophers fans weren’t deterred by the forced donations that accompanied men’s basketball and men’s hockey ticket sales this offseason.

Despite the institution of a “preferred-seating” system — the same one football started when TCF Bank Stadium opened in 2009 — Gophers fans still ordered to renew their men’s basketball and men’s hockey tickets at high rates.

Men’s basketball, which finished its season ticket renewals June 8, had a renewal rate of 85 percent, while men’s hockey had an 89 percent renewal rate.

“We are happy with our overall renewal numbers,” associate athletics director Jason LaFrenz said. “It is about what we projected.”

Minnesota’s athletics department announced last summer the plan to start a “Gopher Points” system, which awards ticketholders points based on the years of consecutive ticket ownership, donations and ties to the University. The new pricing structure required donations of either $400, $250 or $100, depending on the seat location.

The plan drew ire from fans in blogs and public forums when it was first announced. But Gophers fans renewed their tickets at normal rates last year, and this year is similar. To counter any potential loss of business, LaFrenz said Minnesota lowered prices for single games in the upper level of Williams Arena for men’s basketball and added two new prices for cheaper seats — either $20 or $28 per game.

LaFrenz and Minnesota have an uphill battle: The Gophers had the lowest average attendance last season — 11,685 — at Williams Arena since coach Tubby Smith’s arrival to the program in 2007. That’s a 12 percent drop from the 2010-11 season.

“With lots of optimism on the team side and the facility enhancements, we think Gophers basketball and hockey continues to be a good value for the entertainment dollar,” LaFrenz said.

In May, the University announced plans to replace the scoreboards and sound systems in both Mariucci and Williams Arenas. The University plans on making the LED scoreboards and sound systems, which cost about $8 million, installed and functional by the start of the 2012-13 season. Athletics spokesman Garry Bowman told the Minnesota Daily in May that the funding will come from the premium seating changes.

“There will definitely be a ‘wow’ factor when the seasons start in the fall,” LaFrenz said.

Gophers football has used a similar system since TCF Bank Stadium opened three years ago. The results have been undeniably beneficial, with more than $1 million in additional ticket revenue coming in from 2009 to 2010.

Gophers football season tickets were renewed at an 89 percent rate this offseason, LaFrenz said.

In April, Minnesota announced a partnership with The Aspire Group, an outside company aimed to help professional and collegiate sports sell tickets. The group began by helping the Gophers sell football season tickets in late May and in June. LaFrenz said The Aspire Group will begin selling unsold basketball season tickets in early July.