For local sports fans, season tickets are one expense that’s not getting cut.
Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond are reporting strong season ticket sales for the upcoming men’s basketball season. Both schools, however, are taking measures to bring in casual fans who might be watching their wallets more closely this year.
“We really had significant sales. We probably sold 500 new season tickets this year,” said Scott Secules, athletic director of external affairs for VCU, where ticket prices rose $20 to $200.
VCU has sold 1,814 season tickets for men’s basketball, a 10 percent increase over last year, according to the athletic department. But in perhaps a small sign that some people might be cutting season tickets, Secules said the renewal rate was down to 80 percent from the typical 90 percent. Some of that is attrition for local corporations that are cutting their budgets, Secules said, but some individual fans are forgoing season tickets, too.
“I think the economy has probably impacted your casual season ticket basketball fan, [somebody] who’s looked at their finance and saying, ‘I can do something different with that $400,’” Secules said. “We are very fortunate we have a hot commodity in our program and still attracting VCU alumni and Richmond area sports fans.”
At UR, season ticket sales are about even compared with last year, according to ticketing director Kevin Dwan. He said the school has sold 2,000 season tickets this year.
Season ticket prices at UR dropped $25 from last year for all three seating levels because the team plays one less home game. The price for a premium seating season pass is $275. Dwan said the school added a $5 general admission seat this year to draw fans whose economic considerations might have kept them from coming in the past.
The state schools outside of Richmond are reporting stable sales.
Men’s basketball and football season tickets are sold out at Virginia Tech, a school that hasn’t had a decent basketball program until the past several years. Ticket office manager Sandy Smith said they sold out a year in advance, so economic fallout won’t affect the school this season. Tech doesn’t sell tickets to individual games, allotting them instead to students.
But cash-strapped season ticket holders can sell individual game tickets online at SeatExchange.com. There are 170 tickets for sale for the next two games, ranging in price from $45 to $425.
The University of Virginia did not release preliminary ticket sales for basketball, but about 10 percent fewer people – that’s about 6,000 fewer fans – attended football games this season.
Jim Oliver, executive associate director of athletics at UVA, told the News & Advance that the economy is the primary reason. Ticket sales could also be sluggish because the team is not as good as in past years, and some fans are unhappy with the coaching staff.