Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa Hawkeye football season ticket sales continue slide, while other sports are doing better (especially wrestling)

Drops come despite overall ticket revenue bump

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) throws a pass during the fourth quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) throws a pass during the fourth quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Although total ticket revenue for the Hawkeye football program ticked up nearly $1 million in the last budget year, fewer sales came via season ticket purchases — according to new figures provided to The Gazette.

Where the University of Iowa sold 48,447 season tickets for football in the 2018 budget year, it sold 47,822 in 2019. That continued a downward trend in season ticket sales for the sport, which in 2016 sold 51,743 season tickets to UI staff, students, and the general public.

Hawkeye men’s and women’s basketball, on the other hand, saw slight increases in season ticket sales — from 8,141 in 2018 to 8,328 in 2019 for the men and from 2,370 to 2,542 for the women.

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IOWA CITY - The 2019 budget year was more lucrative for Hawkeye athletics than any in recent history, thanks to a bump in ticket sales, special events, donations and media rights proceeds - allowing the department also to spend more.

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And the No. 1 ranked Hawkeye wrestling program — which admits UI students for free with their HawkIDs — reported a 44-percent surge in season ticket sales last year, from 5,365 in 2018 to 7,749 in 2019. That increase, according to UI Athletics spokesman Steve Roe, likely is tied to the wrestling program’s recent success and preseason hype.

A “great schedule that included home meets with nearly every other top program in the rankings this season” also didn’t hurt, Roe said.

The football program, he said, didn’t intentionally decrease season ticket sales — although Roe noted recent upgrades to Kinnick Stadium’s north end zone dropped its total capacity from 70,585 to 69,250.

In fact, UI Athletics has promoted its new north end zone outdoor club — which boasts extra-wide seating with chair backs, armrests, and drink holders; expanded food and drink options; and private restrooms — by requiring annual contributions of $1,958, plus the cost of a football season ticket.

New club seats, according to the promotion, are “available for any Hawkeye fan.”

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“No history of giving or ticket purchasing required,” according to the Kinnick Edge initiative, which also offers three- or five-year seat agreements in the outdoor club.

Despite the season ticket drop for football, overall ticket sales increased across most Hawkeye sports from 2018 to 2019 — including for football and particularly for women’s basketball, softball, men’s gymnastics, and men’s swimming and diving, which have seen recent success and hosted national events on campus.

UI Athletics last year upped its efforts to improve attendance and revenue by hiring a digital marketing firm to — among other things — grow the Hawkeyes’ brand awareness; create individual campaigns for ticketed sports; analyze digital data; and report back on the impact.

Success of that firm’s efforts, according to UI documents, hinges on Hawkeye athletic ticket revenue — which in 2018 at $25.3 million reached its lowest point since at least 2013. Although total ticket sales in 2019 bumped up from that low point, to $27.2 million, they remain below the $28.3 million total in 2017.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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