Season-ticket sales sag as viewing trends shift

Be it the economy, team performance or high-def television, ticket sales aren't what they once were for home games in Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee has sold about 67,000 season tickets for the 2010 football season, which is about 1,000 fewer than this time last year.

The shortcoming is easily traceable: 2,800 fans didn't renew their season tickets from last year.

Typically, about 2,000 fans don't renew their season tickets, according to statistics provided by Chris Fuller, UT senior associate athletic director.

The ticket slump prompted UT to survey season-ticket holders to determine why some are dropping out.

"The two most cited reasons for non-renewal were the economy and age," Fuller stated in an e-mail to the News Sentinel. "In general, I think this points to season-ticket fan bases' aging, and a significant number of people still struggling with the economy.

"Technology is really changing how people consume sports and buy tickets - primarily HDTV, the secondary ticket marketplace, new television contracts (changing game times, night games). The landscape for selling tickets, especially season tickets, is really changing in sports in general."

The SEC's television contract with ESPN signed last year meant a $15 million windfall of revenue for each of the 12 member schools. However, it also has made watching at home that much easier since every game is televised, often in high-definition.

The ESPN contract also places more games at night than the SEC's previous television contracts.

"I'll tell you the thing that I've heard from the fans as much as anything else is the night games," UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said. "With a state the size that our state is - from a geographic standpoint - it's hard sometimes for folks from West Tennessee to come up for a night game. They want to get back and go to church or whatever."

The ticket-sales shortage certainly has an affect on UT's budget, but it's not as significant since UT is reaping the benefit of the ESPN contract.

However, Hamilton said there are more reasons than just revenue to fill Neyland Stadium.

"I think that a full stadium gives momentum to the team on the field and is the aura that you want to give off in college athletics, and we want to have you here," he said.

UT has done plenty to improve its game-day experience. Another phase of renovations to Neyland Stadium is almost complete.

The latest phase includes a brick fa<0x00E7>ade to the main entrance and a statue of the stadium's namesake: Gen. Robert Neyland.

Fuller said UT will take at least two years off from renovations after the latest improvements are complete.

"The interesting thing with this project is it won't ever finish," Fuller said. "It will keep going."

UT also has lowered donation rates for prospective season-ticket buyers. In some areas of Neyland Stadium, tickets can be purchased with a $100 donation, meaning the price for a full slate of home games is $820.

UT has sold 92 percent of its 72,500 season-ticket inventory. Season tickets that go unsold will be offered as single-game tickets this fall.

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Comments » 42

arkyvol writes:

no doubt the economy has something to do with it, as do demographics, but i suspect there's another consideration among us older fans. time was that 'student athlete' meant something. now, not so much. the typical d-1, big time program bears less resemblance to a college program than it does a triple a farm team for the n.f.l., loaded with mercenary hired guns who are less interested in alma mater than they are about who's the best agent. its minor league professionalism, legitimate, but not particularly interesting to me. if i were into that, i'd spend my money on cowboy or redskins tickets.

britt writes:

they didnt mention it but wonder if the mini-pack tickets are pulling a few people from season passes too.

99gator writes:

the economy, i'm sure is a factor.

but, if tennessee were a preseason top 10 team with alabama and florida on the schedule as home games......does anyone really believe ticket sales would be a problem?

1985VOL writes:

I have season tickets and have since I graduated from UT in 1985. When you consider how much it costs my family to see UT play a team like UAB, it's hardly worth the large donation, the weekend expenses (we live over 3 hours away) and the cost of the tickets. They can blame it on the TV if they want, but the bottom line is - it costs way too much money unless we win.

Go Vols!

UTGAMER writes:

I would love season tix , but the donation is crazy for good seats. Ill be going to scalpers and newspaper

mpmknox writes:

in response to arkyvol:

no doubt the economy has something to do with it, as do demographics, but i suspect there's another consideration among us older fans. time was that 'student athlete' meant something. now, not so much. the typical d-1, big time program bears less resemblance to a college program than it does a triple a farm team for the n.f.l., loaded with mercenary hired guns who are less interested in alma mater than they are about who's the best agent. its minor league professionalism, legitimate, but not particularly interesting to me. if i were into that, i'd spend my money on cowboy or redskins tickets.

Dead on! Time was that we used to go to watch Tennessee student-athletes play for the love of the game and glory for the school. Look at the roster now. Not 10% of players from Tennessee. They come here from all over, most with one goal in mind -- go pro. With a few exceptions (e.g. Peyton) they could care less about graduating, UT or Tennessee. I am a season tix holder but will probably drop next year. Not because of performance, but because of the D-1 attitude. I might buy season tix to Tullahoma or Carson-Newman and watch real student-athletes.

SmokeyHowls writes:

Like other sports they have forgotten who their real fan base is. They don't care about kids or families. With the cost and late game times how can a family take their children to the games and raise them up to be fans. Tennessee is more concerned some guy in New Mexico watching the game on ESPN than little Johnny and Susie in Sevierville being able to go to the game with their mom & dad. See how NASCAR has fallen since they started to care more about fans in California than the guys in North Carolina and Virginia. This is what happens when greed takes over and Sports forgets who their real fans are and who got them to this position. I love Tennessee and I am a season ticket holder, but they make it harder to continue all the time. Get back to your roots. One reason I am a fan is because my dad took me to a lot of games when I was a kid. I don't see that many kids at the games these days, and they are usually on after most kids bed times. Like when is the last time a 6 year old got to watch a World Series game and now we have a lack of kids playing baseball.

VOLinATL writes:

Night games are a killer for me, living in Atlanta. I know they get bigger ratings and money, so maybe they won't be needing mine in the future. They are catering more to the fans who don't show up than as do. It would be like Macy's worrying more about online sales than the customer standing in the store.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to 99gator:

the economy, i'm sure is a factor.

but, if tennessee were a preseason top 10 team with alabama and florida on the schedule as home games......does anyone really believe ticket sales would be a problem?

Does anyone really care about the fans that need their team to be in the top ten to consider going to the game? Isn't that the definition of "fairweather"?

nocleats writes:

Its about the money, 20 yrs ago, 2 tickets to a conference game, gas from Nashville to Knoxville and back, something to eat and drink, and parking could easily be done for under a hundred dollars, I looked at a ticket stub from 85 and it was in the low 20 dollar range.
On the same note, if you want to know why the stadium isnt as loud and rowdy as it used to be, its because many tickets are now being purchased by businesses instead of individuals. Where you used to have a section of loud and crazy blue collar workers who lived and breathed all things orange, now you have the southeast region sales VP and 5 of his best clients with their wives, who couldnt tell you the differance between the "strip" and Thompson Boling.

wbsmd1 writes:

I did not renew my 4 season tickets after the hiring of a head coach with a losing record in his own conference.UT has a fundamental problem when a 80 year old booster has the same influence that an NFL owner has. Now his son wants to do the same for our state.

MBEACHVOL writes:

I think it has more to do with bad football for half a decade. And this off season definitely has not produced much buzz.

volbike writes:

No one has mentioned the 50 inch big screen TV in your basement with the concession stand and clean men's room less than 30 feet from your seat with no lines and cheap prices. The big reclining chair in place of the 18 inch bench that gets smaller each year as the average waist size of the crowd increases. Then there are all the wonderful other games that are on that can be watched during the interminable commercials you have to sit through at the game (and which dampen the enhtusiasm of the crowd and team).

Then there is the shabby way that many people with season tickets are treated by the arroganct administration and stadium personnel when various issues arise.

In the 70's due to the gas crisis there was fear that colleges would be playing to empty stadiums with all games broadcast on closed circuit TV.....

ACWLY writes:

The economy? I doubt it very seriously!
It ALL started when the Students had to start paying for tickets, and long time ticket holders got trashed, VERY LOW CLASS. The FAN strength is here and UT shot its ownself in the arm.

1974Vol writes:

in response to nocleats:

Its about the money, 20 yrs ago, 2 tickets to a conference game, gas from Nashville to Knoxville and back, something to eat and drink, and parking could easily be done for under a hundred dollars, I looked at a ticket stub from 85 and it was in the low 20 dollar range.
On the same note, if you want to know why the stadium isnt as loud and rowdy as it used to be, its because many tickets are now being purchased by businesses instead of individuals. Where you used to have a section of loud and crazy blue collar workers who lived and breathed all things orange, now you have the southeast region sales VP and 5 of his best clients with their wives, who couldnt tell you the differance between the "strip" and Thompson Boling.

Your point on the lack of a rowdy crowd is right on point. It’s been a corporate crowd for many years now. Several years ago I was able to get season tickets in section T (long story on how I came on them) but my point is I don't think I saw the same people twice all season. It was a revolving door of “clients”, most of whom were just there for the “experience.” They moseyed in about the middle of the 1st quarter and most left “to beat the traffic” by the middle of the 4th no matter what the score was. On more than one occasion I was asked which team was Tennessee. You can blame Doug Dickey for moving the “I bleed orange” fans out in favor of the well heeled corporate bunch.

PennVol writes:

Perfect storm of several things working against UT:
- mediocre team recently
- unproven coach
- cost of traveling
- concession prices
- televised games
- distance to travel + late night games
- donation + season ticket costs
- cheap tickets at game time

I vote for slashing the unclaimed ticket prices in an effort to get some of the money back and fill up the stadium.

orangecountyvols writes:

Pretty much in agreement with most of the above posts.
Of course, a few will always blame it on the team, coaches etc. Still, we always saw huge crowds in the past when things weren't going well...........so most of us agree it's about the sign of the times, the economy. And in spite of the economy, the cost of going to the game still rises. Making that 800 mile trip isn't very easy....lots of things to consider, the car itself, the ever increasing gas prices, ever increasing costs at the game, the souvenir stores etc.

Still, if I lived anywhere nearly as close as most Vol fans do, I wouldn't have given up my tickets I've kept since 1973. However, still can't compare watching it on television to being at the game. The in person scenario is so much better. Being picky here is saying the stadium improvements are really great, but still never liked all the corporate sponsor flashing advertisement signs surrounding the stadium. Not selling game programs was something I missed last season.........a yearbook sold was NOT a program. U T always sent me a season ticket application...........this year they did not, so I'm not sure what that was all about.

Some have mentioned how the student athlete has changed a lot too, with so many looking at the NFL as a chief reason to be playing football. IMO, $$$$$ is in the ongoing process of ruining so many things, sports included. When we see people getting 100 million dollars just to write their name on a piece of paper, then just show up to play every week..........in football AND the other sports,and expect huge raises after mediocre performances ( and they DO get the raises ) that's a turnoff for me, at least. Again IMO, the salaries paid to people in sports, players and coaches alike, is bordering on obscene and it trickles on down to television and we the fans, are at the tail end. Hopefully we'll eventually see things return to some sense of normalsy.

steve22043#233791 writes:

One factor they didn't mention is mobility. I used to have season tickets but now live in Texas and it's just too much time and money to go back for all the home games. I do intend to take my boys to Knoxville to get the Neyland Stadium experience when they're both old enough to appreciate/remember it, but going back for every game is out of the question now, especially since I can see most all of them on TV anyway.

Vol86 writes:

To say there is one reason for the ticket slump would be stupid. When faced with a 106,000 capacity a lot of things come into play. Student tix not being free, economy, tv, ect. Yeh that is right Fl dips, uf enrollment is 20,000 more than ut's and the population of fl. is more likely 4 fold of tn.

Vol_Doc writes:

Maybe I misread something. Sales are down 1000 seats from this time last year. With a 106,000 seat capacity, that's a less than 1% overall drop. Even in relation to the current sales tally of 67,000, that's less than 2%. What's the big freakin' deal?!

HoraceMorris writes:

The economy is only a slight percentage in the drop in season ticket sales. A declining program, the ridiculous cost of donating just to buy tickets, and a sterile gameday environment are all the major factors. Why would a person want to donate $1,000 or more plus the price of the tickets to see a team around .500 when tickets can be bought for around $20 at game time?

The demand has dropped because the product on the field has dropped. The administration can't continue to charge these prices for a mid-level program. When they start winning, the fans will start lining up again for tickets. Just look at Alabama. The economy isn't hurting their ticket sales.

orangecountyvols writes:

VolDoc

Capacity is no longer 106,000. They have whittled the seating arrangement down, official seating is 100,011. Of course, if we throw in people working concessions, police, support personnel etc maybe we can hit 105,000 that way. We'll never see the 109,000 plus anymore.

tanasi2 writes:

in response to PennVol:

Perfect storm of several things working against UT:
- mediocre team recently
- unproven coach
- cost of traveling
- concession prices
- televised games
- distance to travel + late night games
- donation + season ticket costs
- cheap tickets at game time

I vote for slashing the unclaimed ticket prices in an effort to get some of the money back and fill up the stadium.

I agree 100%. After being a 26 year season ticket holder, I did not renew this year. The final straw for me was when a fat smartass cop at the gate took my small backpack that I carried my raingear in. After opening the pack, which only contained my raingear and a walkman radio, the cop refused to allow it in the stadium. I don't look like an Arab Muslim who would be bringing a bomb into the stadium. The PC crowd can have my seats and I'll not have to worry about bringing raingear anymore! Going to Neyland today is more of a hassle than it is worth!!!!

orangeman1 writes:

in response to 99gator:

the economy, i'm sure is a factor.

but, if tennessee were a preseason top 10 team with alabama and florida on the schedule as home games......does anyone really believe ticket sales would be a problem?

I hate to agree with a Gator fan, but you are right. If UT was projected to compete for the SEC and played Oregon, Bama, Florida, and Ole Miss at home there wouldnt be any season tickets available. People can give excuses like late games, economy, HD tvs, but the bottom line is if UT was still dominant people would find a way. Maybe some are spending their money on basketball tickets now.

stevefrommemphis writes:

Let's not forget that TV demanded that the RULES OF THE GAME BE CHANGED so that the product would fit into their neat 210 minute time allotment. Timing rules were changed to reduce the number of offensive plays per game by almost 10 plays per team. (NCAA and SEC will say repeatedly that just a few plays have been cut, but they are lying.) I now call it College Footbal, not Football, because about one-eighth of the game has been eliminated by the rule changes.

Meanwhile, the fans who make the effort to go to the game have to sit in the rain or cold at night in November while TV gets in their 60+ minutes of commercials per game.

Short answer: shoddy, watered-down product (college football in general, not just UT) results in watered-down support.

stevefrommemphis writes:

KNS, article should have said that the minimum price for a PAIR of season tickets is $820.

brokebackvol writes:

At least the band is still good.

nonewsisgoodnews writes:

What a crock of %^&*! HDTV isn't keeping fans away nor is the economy. That is an excuse, as is the age factor. Shame on UT for not going after a new generation of fans sooner.

Aside from winning the national title last year, what prompts 100,000 fans to turn out for the Bama spring game? The economy has hit every state hard, but the fans still turn out in droves. They love the team, atmosphere and have pride in their state school.

UT had that and can have it again. WINNING changes everything.

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

in response to brokebackvol:

At least the band is still good.

Sorry. As a former band member/music major, they're really not very good any more either compared to years ago. Sad.

1974Vol writes:

in response to pj_ladyvolnMI:

Sorry. As a former band member/music major, they're really not very good any more either compared to years ago. Sad.

Yeah was never quite the same after Dr. Julian left. The circle drill still looks pretty cool though

1974Vol writes:

in response to jcvet33:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah that's why I quit going..too dad gum many fat people lol

bigvol980#528379 writes:

I'm 6'5" and my 58 year old legs don't bend far enough to keep them out of the ears of the person in the seat in front of me. My 20" wide butt doesn't fit on the 15" wide seat Neyland now has. I love the atmosphere at the games, but I don't go any longer because it's just too damned uncomforatable.

99gator writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Does anyone really care about the fans that need their team to be in the top ten to consider going to the game? Isn't that the definition of "fairweather"?

way to get insulted by a comment that wasn't insulting.

Bearwuzacheater writes:

in response to BamaBeacher:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

As a bama fan who was a former season ticket holder you would certainly know about seeing a product that had been bought and paid for!

I bet most of the players you saw during your season ticket time were probably all paid for by the late vandy grad Logan Young.

mmhartz writes:

As Bruce Pearl has shown, if you win, they will come. The football team just needs to win a lot every year and they won't have to worry. The Gators and the Tide don't seem to have ticket sale problems, even in this economy.

Lame_Kiffin writes:

Tennessee has priced itself out of affordability for most people. While I do have season tix, if it came down to feeding my family, going on vacation with my family, medical, I would gladly let the tix and donation go. I don't blame anyone for NOT paying those prices to see sloppy play. Stay home, watch it on the sofa while sipping on a cold one is the best way. Much, much cheaper. Also, I know many who have ditched their tix and go to tailgating places on the strip and watch the game there. They enjoy it a lot!

MtnGal writes:

As someone said above, winning changes everything. Ask those who gave up their lower level basketball tickets pre-Bruce Pearl era.

I remember when events were planned months in advance around the start time of a UT game. Now the start time may not be known until a couple of weeks before the game.

Some people buy lottery tickets every week. Some bet on horse races. I'm betting on the Vols.

hueypilot writes:

in response to Vol_Doc:

Maybe I misread something. Sales are down 1000 seats from this time last year. With a 106,000 seat capacity, that's a less than 1% overall drop. Even in relation to the current sales tally of 67,000, that's less than 2%. What's the big freakin' deal?!

Given the turmoil of the past few years, the poor seasons, the Va Tech blowout to cap the season, Kiffin's departure, the economy, I'd expect the ticket sales to be down maybe 10,000 not 1,000. Just win baby and the seats will be full again.

VOLinAthensGA writes:

First of all, stay proud Vol Nation. This phenomenon is happening everywhere and it isn't as bad as it seems. As for me, I couldn't afford to attend games at my alma mater until the recent changes in donations and single tickets. So, someone like me who can only attend a couple of games a year, this has worked out great! I encourage all those who thought they couldn't attend before to buy tickets this year and come join us!!! It's (almost) Football Time In Tennessee!!

straightshooter writes:

Economy and what level fans think the team will play at are the main reasons for reduced ticket sales. Who wants to pay a lot of money to travel and see a blow-out game. But just like Nascar, football stadiums will be less full for many reasons, not just a few. Times are changing, and things common in "yester year" are permanently gone. Some things could have been handled better limiting the changes but greed in most sports has taken overk, diluting it.

vols2#227315 writes:

Until UT hires a proven coach that can win games, a excellant recuiter, a coach who is not afraid to talk to the media about good things in the football program UT will always have a problem filling the stadium.

DarthBubba writes:

in response to pj_ladyvolnMI:

Sorry. As a former band member/music major, they're really not very good any more either compared to years ago. Sad.

Completely agree with PJ. They're not only not as good, they were a LOT smaller last year, with only 192 musicians marching pregame. They had to go back into the vaults and dig up old pregame charts from the sixties, because that was the last time the Pride of the Southland was so small.

Commentary I've seen on the Facebook band alumni group, and a few private emails, suggest that Dr. Sousa and Dr. Ryder have chased away quite a few kids.

It saddens me to say it, but the band is a shadow of its former self. Dr. Julian would have NEVER let things slip this far.

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