Another Angle on WVU Football Season Ticket Sales
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Recent reports of West Virginia’s slight decline in football season ticket sales compared to last year have been pushed across the media landscape, but the raw numbers of sales of the full six-game home package don’t tell the entire story.
WVU figures to sell approximately 27,000 season tickets for the 2017 schedule, and as of last week had sold 26,300. That would be a drop of about 1,000 from the 2016 season, and continues a decline that has been evident over the past six seasons. Season tickets are priced at $365 each, with additional donations require to secure better seats.
That’s just part of the picture, though. Those numbers don’t include sales of mini-packages, of which there are three different availabilities. The Mountaineer plan includes four games: ECU, Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma State, while the Blue Plan (Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas) and Gold Plan (ECU, Oklahoma State, Texas) offer three contests each.
All told, more than 3,100 mini-packages have been sold to date, with the Blue Plan topping the preferred list of Mountaineer fans. If each of those sales are counted as ½ of a full season ticket, that’s another 1,600 to add to the previous number – and sales of those are still climbing. As a result, the ticket situation isn’t as dire as some might make out.
“Season tickets don’t tell the whole story,” Senior Associate Athletic Director Matt Wells said. “There is more than one way to skin the cat. We are encouraged by the fact that our mini-package plans are trending up. We are ahead of pace as opposed to this time last year, and single games are off to a good start and ahead of pace too.”
Wells, who oversees the WVU ticket office among many other duties, also notes that getting people in the stadium is the end goal, and whether that’s via full season tickets, mini-packages or single game sales, the important factor is getting seats filled.
“We were up in attendance last year [compared to the year before] ,” Wells observed, “The season ticket pace is down a little bit, but that’s not all that alarming, especially when you factor in the increase in minis and single games.”
The numbers from that aspect bear Wells out. In 2016, West Virginia home attendance averaged 57,583 per game. That, in turn, reflected an increase of 2,700 from the 2015 season. Last year’s average was the fourth highest since the 2004 stadium reconfiguration that reduced capacity to approximately 60,000 seats.
WVU isn’t alone in seeing the tastes and buying habits of its fans evolve.
“We have seen this trend at other schools, and I think you are seeing it across college athletics, and to some extent even professional athletics,” Wells observed. “The market has changed. It’s different now even than it was 3-5 years ago, and definitely different than it was ten years ago. Fans have more options and are being more selective, and at any given time the economy can come into play.
“What we are seeing is fans saying, ‘I am going to come to two or three or four games’, and either picking up a mini-package or going out to the secondary market. It’s been a shift in the mentality of fans more than anything else.”
Granted, it’s not a straight equation of two mini-packages for one season ticket. The majority of those season ticket sales also include those donations for the right to purchase better seats, where the mini-packages and single games do not. However, the cost of the mini-packages (Mountaineer Plan $245, Gold Plan $190 and Blue Plan ($185) do cost a bit more per seat, on average, than the per game price of a full season ticket. WVU, like any school, would obviously prefer to sell out its season tickets prior to the start of the season, but that’s an atmosphere reserved for a rarefied few in the college game. Even schools such as Oklahoma and Texas have gone the route of the mini-plan to supplement decreases in full package sales.
“From a marketing and ticket office standpoint, it’s great to sell out season tickets, because that means a lot less work you have to do in July and August and September and October,” Wells added. “So when season tickets stay flat, we have to be more proactive and more creative in our packaging, and continue to work to sell single games and mini-plans.”
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Wells also noted that the neutral site game with Virginia Tech will actually net the Mountaineers more than the average home contest.
“There is a guarantee for each school up front,” he explained. “And then there’s a revenue sharing opportunity when certain thresholds [of tickets sold] are met. Both schools sold out of their allotment (West Virginia’s was 17,000) and indications from Washington are that very few tickets are left. I think we are going to be looking at a sold out venue, and we should have a financial plus for us. We will probably make a little bit more on this game than we will on a home game. It’s definitely worth our time and effort.”