Tennessee’s athletic department seems destined to reach or surpass two of its major goals after a busy financial week.
First, the Vols received $4 million in pledges this week for its new 125,000-square-foot athletic complex that will be attached to the indoor complex at Neyland-Thompson Sports Center.
UT has secured $28 million worth of pledges of the $30 million it needs to begin the project.
“We remain hopeful that we can break ground on that project this fall,” UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said in a text message Thursday.
The Vols also are surging toward their football season ticket sales goal thanks to a recent marketing campaign and rising fan interest.
UT has sold more than 70,000 season tickets for the 2009 season, according to figures provided by associate athletic director Chris Fuller. That is just over 96 percent of available season tickets.
The Vols sold 300 tickets Wednesday thanks in part to an offer to established donors that allows them to buy four additional tickets without an additional donation. UT has sold 2,000 season tickets since July 20.
“My sense is that people are really fired up about this season,” Fuller said.
Season tickets sell for $360. For non-established donors, UT has dropped its previous mandatory donation by approximately 50 percent to $125. Premium seats require a greater donation.
As those letters continue to reach donors, Fuller expects the surge to continue.
He said UT’s goal this season is to sell 71,000, which is approximately 97.5 percent of available season tickets. The Vols sold 72,800 season tickets last season.
Fuller said UT is certainly not immune to the shaky economic environment, but is pleased that available tickets and reduced required donations could bring in younger, possibly lifelong fans.
Any season tickets that go unsold will be sold as single-game tickets. There are likely to be plenty of tickets available for non-conference games, such as the season opener against Western Kentucky, Ohio, UCLA and Memphis.
Fuller said he’s seen a dramatic drop in tickets sold to visiting schools. In 2005, UAB fans bought 7,200 of their 8,000 allotment. UAB fans bought only 800 last season.