Strong ticket sales fuels Iowa's 2017 athletics budget

Football income expects to jump $4.65 million

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IOWA CITY — For the first time in school history, Iowa’s athletics department projects an annual budget exceeding $100 million.

According to a Regents document unveiled on Wednesday, Iowa athletics’ 2017 fiscal year budget grew to $102.1 million, a 9 percent increase. The 2017 fiscal year began July 1 for Regents universities.

Increased football income — nearly all ticket sales — provides the primary financial trigger. The department forecasts a jump of $4.65 million in football-related income, pushing that budgeted total to $24.2 million with expenses budgeted at $23.07 million. That’s on a similar trajectory before last year’s financial pothole.

With an uneasy fan base, an unfavorable home schedule and a 17 percent drop in season-ticket sales, Iowa projected about $19.55 million in 2016 fiscal football income. Its final football income totaled $19.73 million, marking the first time since at least 2003 Iowa’s football expenses ($23.6 million) exceeded its ticket income.

“Last year it was a perfect storm for a decrease,” said Iowa senior associate athletics director Matt Henderson, who oversees department revenue and external relations. “This year we have an opportunity to capture a lot of that back.”

The football program rebounded to finish in the top 10 nationally a year ago with a 12-2 overall record. It also won the Big Ten West Division title and earned a Rose Bowl berth. Additionally, Iowa boasts an attractive home schedule that includes border foes Wisconsin, Nebraska and Northwestern, instate rival Iowa State and high-profile power Michigan. Other games include five-time Football Championship Subdivision champion North Dakota State and Miami (Ohio).

Iowa increased season-ticket prices by $10 for returning customers ($405) and $20 for new customers ($415). The department has 5,540 new season-ticket orders between the general public and UI staff. Student season-ticket buys are up more than 1,000 from mid-July last year. And with general public single-game sales starting at 8 a.m. Thursday, Henderson said the department already has sold 10,000 more single-game tickets for the upcoming season than last year. While tickets remain for every game, Henderson said few are available for games against Iowa State and Michigan.

“Those areas are all markers that show momentum is going in the right direction, which we’re excited about,” Henderson said. “We also know that we have tickets available so there are options for any of those areas.”

As for the department’s 2017 budget, Iowa expects about $800,000 increases from the Big Ten ($34.336 million total), Learfield ($7.4 million) and UI Foundation ($15.253 million) in 2017.

Among the sizable changes from the fiscal 2016 budget to the final 2016 numbers include $881,875 in wrestling revenue, well above the $550,000 projected. That’s because of the “Grapple on the Gridiron” event at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 14, 2015 that set a national record with 42,287 fans in attendance. Iowa earned $855,000 more than expected from its novelties/bookstore category, mostly because of T-shirt sales associated with the Rose Bowl.

Iowa’s women’s sports came in about $228,000 under budget, while its men’s sports outspent its budget by almost $2.7 million. More than $2 million from that overrun was from football. Expenses related to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis and the Rose Bowl provided a major chunk in those expenses.

Iowa men’s basketball income missed its 2016 budget by about $107,000 and overspent its budget by $300,000. Iowa’s lack of Saturday home Big Ten basketball games led to lower attendance and provided a factor for the drop in income. Both wrestling and women’s basketball were under budget by about $100,000.

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