Athletic department announces free student tickets for men’s basketball, hockey
Rachel O'Grady | Tuesday, October 27, 2015
In response to low student attendance at games despite winning seasons, the Notre Dame Athletics Department announced all student tickets for men’s basketball and hockey will be free for the 2015-16 season.
Assistant director of athletics Brian Pracht said the department is hoping free tickets will draw more students to the games.
“ … the early results, based on the past couple days, have been unbelievable. So now, our hope is that the show rate for those students is going to be higher than it was in the past,” Pracht said.
Pracht said that in the past, student ticket plans for basketball have been made available for purchase in the months leading up to the season.
“Men’s basketball had a season pass, which we sold to provide admission to all the home games. If tickets were still available on game day, students could still walk up to the box office and buy a ticket for the game that day,” Pracht said.
Despite high ticket sales, however, many of these passes went unused during the regular season.
“The challenge we were having is the low percentage of use on those tickets we sold. So last year, we had probably about 30% use by those students who had purchased tickets,” he said. “Now obviously that left a pretty big void. Some of those games were full, some games it was less than 30 percent. That average was actually just 30 percent, so you can imagine those big swings in tickets that left those huge blocks of seats open.”
The athletics marketing department faced a similar challenge with hockey as well. In past years, students could purchase season passes for hockey games to ensure tickets, or show up on game day and get a limited number of student tickets for free, Pracht said.
While this system worked well for the students, Pracht said it created a challenge because more students relied on day-of tickets than season passes, so there was no way of knowing how many students were planning on attending the game on any given day.
“Sometimes we exceeded capacity and had to turn students away, which is not a great thing to do. Other times, we had a bunch of empty seats that we could have, quite frankly, sold to the public, had we known that students weren’t going to use them for that particular night,” he said.
He said the athletic department’s ultimate goal was to create a system that would maximize student attendance.
“Our first and top priority has always been trying to get as many students in the door as possible, so that was always our goal. As we started having those meetings with focus groups, that really remained our central ideal,” Pracht said.
After several weeks of trying different ideas, the athletic department ultimately decided to eliminate the season pass altogether and make tickets complimentary across the board for both sports.
“But that only solved one of the problems,” Pracht said.
The other challenge the department faced lay in anticipating student attendance numbers, he said.
“The athletic department was very willing to give up the season ticket revenue for the students to make [tickets] free, but we still needed to know — ‘Are the students coming?’” he said.
Pracht said in order to have accurate estimates of attendance prior to games, students must claim their free tickets online roughly two weeks in advance of a block of games.
“We decided to allow students to claim tickets on the website, so then they can request those tickets, and then we can distribute those tickets electronically, which we’ve been doing anyway,” he said. “ … We wanted to set these deadlines far enough out so that we could know, with some certainty, how many students were coming to each game. So we’re putting these games in blocks, and that gives us some time to figure out the demand for each game.”
Pracht said the numbers so far have been encouraging but that it would take several months for the department to see if and how well the system was working .
“The demand is so much higher already that we feel really good that ultimately, our new system is going to put more students in the student section, which was our goal,” he said. “We haven’t seen it in action yet, with the exception of fall break, but the first games coming up, we’ll see if it’ll work out.”