Fans irked by season ticket plan

The University announced last week that it will raise the cost of scholarship seating at TCF.

Sam Kraemer

Marty Orbuch, 82, has been a Gophers football season-ticket holder for a half-century.

As a 1957 University of Minnesota Medical School alumnus, he wanted to keep the tradition of Gophers athletics alive in his family by buying two season tickets around the 20-yard line.

But like some other avid Gophers fans, he’s unsure if he’ll continue buying season football tickets because of new hikes in seating fees that start next season.

The University announced the plan last week that will increase the price of scholarship seating at TCF Bank Stadium for season-ticket holders.

“I understand to be successful in the athletic program … they have to improve the environment the student-athletes are involved with,” Orbuch said. “But I was ambivalent with the cost going up so high. It made me think, ‘Gee, this might be my last year buying football tickets.’”

When TCF Bank Stadium opened in 2009, the University first introduced scholarship seating fees, which require season-ticket holders to pay an extra gift fee in addition to their tickets’ price. The fees directly support the day-to-day operations of the athletics department.

“Our medical expenses have gone up dramatically,” athletics director Norwood Teague said. “Our equipment expenses have gone up a ton. Our travel has gone up, and we really haven’t done anything to help soften those blows. It’s just something we had to do.”

The gift fee will incrementally increase over the next three years and varies depending on season tickets’ placement in the stadium. Fans with seats near the 50-yard line will pay a $1,000 gift fee in 2017 when their season ticket is priced at $330.

Teague saw the increase as an inevitable move for the athletics department.

“I cannot see us in the coming years staying in the black without doing something like this because our costs have continued to go up,” Teague said. “It was something we had to do to balance our budget.”

University President Eric Kaler told the Minnesota Daily earlier this week that the price hike was necessary to “compete with Big Ten schools who have larger stadiums and more robust budgets.”

At other Big Ten schools, like Wisconsin and Ohio State, prospective season-ticket holders must donate money before having the opportunity to purchase season tickets.

For seats at the 50-yard line at Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium, Badgers fans are recommended to donate at least $400 prior to applying for tickets.

Though the practice is common, it isn’t necessarily popular.

“About 2-to-1 are disappointed. They don’t want to pay more,” Kaler said. “But a third of the people … are supportive of making a larger investment in Gopher football.”

Gophers season-ticket holder Doug Franzen, 59, who has had football tickets for 12 years, said he was upset with the price hike.

He said his payment will increase dramatically.

“My contribution increased by 80 percent on my seats for the first year,” Franzen said. “And it’ll be going up more into 2017.”

While he understands the reasoning for the pricing hike, Franzen said he thinks the season-ticket holders are somewhat cornered by the new scholarship seating prices.

“I’m concerned,” he said. “I knew in the back of my mind it was coming. … What’s frustrating is that some of us have been longtime supporters on an annual basis. I feel a little taken advantage of.”

 

Blair Emerson contributed to this report.