Beyond the budget
In an ongoing and occasional series spurned by the department's nearly $4 million budget deficit for 2011-12, the News Sentinel is looking at revenues and expenses in the University of Tennessee's athletic department.
University of Tennessee officials hope an enhanced game experience — and a winning team — will encourage fans to come back for more.
About 10,000 tickets remained for the Vols' 4 p.m. kickoff against Georgia State as of Tuesday afternoon. Tickets are $45-$48 for non-conference opponents.
A year ago, UT's home opener against Montana drew an announced attendance of 94,661.
Neyland Stadium's capacity is listed as 102,455. The most recent home opener to surpass 100,000 was 2007.
"It's just a different climate for ticket sales,'' said Chris Fuller, UT's senior associate athletic director for external relations, "even if you're watching the Olympics or a (New York) Yankees game.''
Of eight SEC home openers last weekend, only Mississippi State listed a capacity crowd (55,082).
Arkansas, LSU and Georgia came very close to capacity, at least on a tickets-sold basis.
Fuller said UT season-ticket sales are "right around 60,000," which hasn't changed much since mid-July, when mini-packs and individual tickets became available.
Tickets topped out at 63,000 out of a possible 72,500 last season.
"I'm always hoping to see a late spike,'' Fuller said, "but history will tell you once you break it up for individuals and mini-packs, your season-ticket sales are pretty much concluded.''
Fuller said this season's innovative mini-pack sales have been good. For the first time, fans were offered the option of including either Alabama or Florida — but not both — in a pack with any two other home games.
"It's been well received,'' Fuller said. "Some fans are motivated by the opponent, others are motivated by 'that's a better weekend for me.' ''
The restricted area for
ticket scalping goes into effect Saturday. Anyone selling tickets will have to remain across the street from the stadium, starting at Cumberland Avenue.
Fuller said the policy isn't aimed at fans attending the game with a couple of unused tickets to unload.
Rather, it's to provide a buffer from professional brokers for fans who already have tickets or want to buy them at the box office.
"It's not competition with our box office,'' Fuller said. "We've already sold the ticket (that a broker has for sale).
"What we're trying to address is the professionals who stalk the G-10 garage in basketball or post-up at Gate 21 in football.
"We've heard from our fans who say, 'I'm getting out of the car and I've got three guys pushing me for tickets.'
"If you still want that marketplace, it won't be hard to find. We just want a safe radius.''
Once inside the stadium, fans will find new 46-inch flat-screen TVs around the concourse and restroom improvements in some areas. Wireless capacity has been enhanced.
Fuller said UT has cut prices on several of its top-selling concessions. Thirsty fans will find a $3 bottle of water, down from $4 last year.
"Hopefully, our fans know we listened to them on our survey,'' Fuller said.