If it’s broke, for goodness sake, fix it

Last Friday marked the beginning of another season of Gophers hockey at Mariucci Arena. Ten years after Mariucci opened, most of its problems have been worked out. The sound system has been upgraded. More suites have been built, and several rows of seats have been added. These days, the hockey operations and related activities go off without a hitch.

Only one thing is still broken at Mariucci: the student ticket policy. A decade later, the same problems remain, as if the ticket office hadn’t noticed or didn’t care (hardly surprising, given the way this University usually deals with students).

When the new arena opened, the ticket office decided to allocate student tickets on both ends of the arena in order to “distribute the atmosphere.” Student season tickets are much cheaper than regular tickets. Students are also allowed to purchase a guest ticket at the regular public rate in addition to their season tickets. This ticket is deeply discounted, considering that many public season-ticket holders are required to make large yearly donations to athletics in addition to the regular ticket price.

This system appears simple, but it has a host of problems.

First, the decision to allocate tickets at both ends of the arena has created, in effect, two different student sections, one being much more attractive than the other. Sections 13 and 14 are in front of the band and at the end of the ice that the Gophers attack twice. Sections two and three are at the other end of the arena. Cheering along with the band is more difficult, and the Gophers attack on that end only once. Naturally, seats in section 13 or 14 are more valued than seats on the opposite end of the arena, yet no distinction is made between the two. The University is, in effect, screwing over the students who have seats in section two or three – yet it refuses to fix the problem.

Basically, the only pro-student action would be to move all the student seats to the “good” end of the arena. But administrators flat-out refuse to add additional student seats in this area because it would displace public season-ticket-holders in adjacent sections, moving some to the unattractive end of the arena. As usual, when it comes time for the University to make a decision to either benefit students or to increase revenue, the administrators dive for the cash.

Besides this issue, other correctable problems with the student ticket policy remain. For one, student seats are assigned by random lottery. That means students who have had tickets for their entire collegiate career might end up in the back row of section two (in front of general public ticket-holders who snipe at the students to sit down and shut up), while bandwagon fans who have never seen a game before end up in the prime student seats.

I’m all for a wide variety of students being able to attend hockey games, but shouldn’t we reward the fans who’ve been living and dying with the team instead of those who don’t know a cross-check from a cross-dresser?

Such a system would be simple enough: Assign returning students tickets in the “good” locations before new ticket-holders. The University of Michigan does this with football tickets, and I don’t recall hearing any news of Michigan Stadium being torn down by angry student rioters, so why can’t we do the same with hockey tickets?

Second, the guest tickets students are allowed to purchase are problematic. The ticket office allows students to take advantage of this policy ostensibly so they can bring a friend or a significant other to the game. It’s a nice thought that little Bobby can bring his girlfriend to the hockey games, but I’m sure a die-hard fan stuck in the back of section three while Bobby and his girlfriend sit in section 14 isn’t particularly enamored with the fact that Bobby’s girlfriend gets a prime seat while the die-hard fan rots at the back of section three.

I don’t have a problem with the guest ticket per se – if students want to bring a friend, that’s fine. But if the administration won’t fix the mistake of splitting the student sections, the least it can do is make sure students get seating priority over guests.

For the hockey-related operations at the new arena, the old adage still applies: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But for things that are broken, why not fix them?

Jon Marthaler’s column appears alternate Fridays. He welcomes comments at [email protected]