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IOWA CITY - Iowa athletics director Gary Barta doesn't have the final numbers, but he said Thursday that he expects a downturn for football season ticket sales in 2015.
The topic was the 2016 athletics budget at a Presidential Committee on Athletics meeting Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Obviously, football season tickets are a significant portion of athletics budgets. In 2006, football ticket sales comprised 44 percent of Iowa's revenue. Barta expects that number to fall in the 26 to 30 percent range in 2016.
'We're anticipating a reduction in season tickets,” Barta said. He hopes to have a sense of how much of a decrease by mid-June, when season ticket sales slow and single-game tickets begin.
For the 2016 season, Barta said Iowa has sold in the neighborhood of 30,000 general public season tickets and has another 500 new buyers waiting for orders to be served. In 2014, Iowa sold 37,823 season tickets to the general public, its lowest number since selling 37,125 in 2009.
'We're anticipating and conservatively preparing for a down tick there,” Barta said. 'The reality there is we start selling single-game tickets. Depending on the weather, depending on success, that number could exceed last year's number, you just have to rely more on weather and early success in order to sell those tickets rather than presell them all in July.”
Iowa saw this coming. Barta was there when the Hawkeyes walked off the field in January, 45-28 losers to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl. The 2016 budgeting process has proceeded accordingly.
Where is the slack picked up? Barta has seen a shift in revenue the last few years, with tickets losing some ground and Big Ten TV revenues gaining.
In 2006, Big Ten TV revenue was 23 percent of Iowa's revenue. In 2016, it could be as much as 35 to 37 percent. Also, Iowa had another record year in fundraising, back-to-back record years now, and that will be 23 or 24 percent of the 2016 budget.
'I think everyone knows there's a shift from ticket to TV,” Barta said.
Now, that certainly doesn't mean empty Kinnick Stadium is cool. Of course, not. Season ticket sales are a metric - as much as seven wins were a metric - but it's not the only measure, Barta said.
What it does mean is Iowa football has to supply some electricity of its own.
'When we finished that bowl game, it just hurt,” Barta said. 'It hurt in my gut, it hurt in (football coach Kirk Ferentz) Kirk's. The metric is getting the momentum and excitement back.”
Barta pointed to Iowa's 26-24 defeat to Wisconsin last November in Kinnick.
'Even though we lost, it was fun,” he said. 'It was electric. I don't know what the number is (number of victories for a season), but I know we've got to get momentum back. We've got to have fun again when we come to Kinnick Stadium. I know we will, and we're doing everything we can.
'I'll never shy away, wins are the most important, but it's also the intangibles. How many season tickets vs. how many single-game tickets, at the end of the day, was Kinnick fun, exciting and a great environment to play and watch a football game?”
- On Thursday, the Big Ten Network announced a few of the kickoffs for its primetime football games this fall. Iowa has two scheduled (Sept. 19 vs. Pittsburgh and Nov. 14 vs. Minnesota) at Kinnick Stadium. Times weren't announced Thursday, but the kickoffs will be in the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. windows.
Barta once said that two night kickoffs at Kinnick would be difficult for Iowa to stage, but Big Ten night games have been a success and that stance has changed.
'For the last five years, the night game experiment, if you'd like to call it that, across the Big Ten has highly successful,” Barta said. 'Fans have loved it, television has loved it. So, if I said that five years ago, and I remember saying that, it was relative to the experience at the time.”
- Two new factors in the 2016 budget that Iowa, along with every other NCAA institution, will need to address is cost of attendance and food costs.
Last year, the NCAA changed food rules for athletes, basically allowing unlimited meals. Iowa created refueling stations for athletes in the last year and saw food expense balloon to more than $800,000 above the budgeted amount. The 2016 budget will be the first with cost of attendance calculated in.
Barta estimated the total cost between of two expenses will be in the range of $1.5 and $2 million.
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