Kentucky football ticket sales running well behind previous years

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJuly 26, 2012 

  • UK season ticket sales

    Kentucky has sold 35,486 season tickets for this season as of Sunday. Here are final totals for the previous nine years:

    Year Season tickets

    2011 48,405

    2010 52,349

    2009 56,440

    2008 54,788

    2007 52,551

    2006 42,974

    2005 45,489

    2004 48,842

    2003 49,281

Six weeks before Kentucky's football home opener, ticket sales are lagging considerably.

As of Sunday, UK had sold 35,486 season tickets, down 27 percent from last season's final tally and down 37 percent from the Wildcats' peak in 2009.

"It's down definitely from last year," Kentucky spokesman Dewayne Peevy said Thursday, adding that last season there were an additional 3,000 to 4,000 tickets sold in the last few weeks before the season began.

"The five weeks that are probably left now before we start, there is a bigger increase than most weeks because it's getting close to the season," Peevy said. "We're not talking about a significant number, though."

The sales total of 35,486 as of Sunday was released to the Herald-Leader after an open-records request.

UK's home opener at Commonwealth Stadium (capacity 67,942) is Sept. 8 versus Kent State.

"It's a combination of the economy ... performance on the field and the television package offering another option for fans," Peevy said, noting that every UK game is on television now, which wasn't the case previously, and that some fans prefer to watch games from the comfort of their living rooms.

Kentucky is coming off a 5-7 season that saw it miss out on going to a bowl game for the first time in five seasons.

Peevy acknowledged UK's performance was partly responsible for the decrease in sales.

"Last year's season, not going to a bowl game, probably had some impact," he said. "But I'd say it's not attributed only to that."

He noted that at league meetings other Southeastern Conference schools lamented that ticket sales were down at their places and around the country.

"If other schools have problems in our league — which is by far the best football — then I'm sure we're going to have some of that, too," Peevy said.

"If other schools aren't selling out, the LSUs of the world and the South Carolinas are having concerns, Tennessee, then you know it's going to affect us to some level."

But officials at two of the three SEC schools Peevy mentioned indicated they have not seen a decline in ticket sales this season.

Louisiana State has sold out its season ticket allotment (68,500), said Brian Broussard, an assistant athletic director at the school.

South Carolina is on pace to top its season ticket sales from last season.

As of Thursday, the Gamecocks had sold 47,442 tickets, down 149 from last season's 47,591, but there are several weeks to make up that difference.

Officials from Tennessee did not return phone messages about season ticket figures.

In an interview with the Herald-Leader in late June, UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart acknowledged that season ticket sales were "down a little bit, but not horrible."

He noted that he always waits until he sees the final total.

"We're pretty steady during the summer, and the numbers are just about where they were last year in terms of steady in the summer," Barnhart said.

He was out of town and unavailable for comment Thursday.

The most season tickets UK has sold during the past decade was 56,440 in 2009, when they were sold out by July 21.

The fewest season tickets sold during the past decade was 42,974 in 2006.

At the annual Governor's Cup luncheon Thursday, Coach Joker Phillips noted that UK was 27th in the country in attendance last season (420,052 total, with an average of 60,007) and has been in the top 30 the past 15 years.

"We've got good fan support," Phillips said.

About 200 fans have purchased the mini-plan pack ages Kentucky started offering late last week, but those don't count toward the season ticket total.

UK has fielded some questions from season ticket holders about the new packages but has had just one request for a refund.

Season tickets remain the best value for fans because the K-Fund donation helps them accumulate points for priority seating, Peevy said. He also noted that the mini-plans are lower-level end zone seats at best.

"The season ticket's got to be the best value," he said. "We can't afford for that not to be the best value. If not, everybody would just wait until the last minute to see if we've got any other plans."

The reward for fans who have purchased tickets is that they probably are getting better seats.

"A lot of people that have held on, their tickets have improved," Peevy said. "You've got people who went from upper to lower; they got eight together they were never able to get. There's been some benefit from the people who held on."

■ Louisville has not completed its final season ticket tally, but officials said Thursday that the school has sold 41,500. Kentucky opens its season Sept. 2 at U of L's Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Staff writer Ben Roberts contributed to this report.

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