Iowa football faces largest ticket-sales decline in last 10 years

Chad Leistikow

The University of Iowa is expecting to sell roughly 10 percent fewer season football tickets in 2015 than it did a year ago.

The athletic department sent a press release Tuesday afternoon to outline lower ticket sales than the 2014 season, when general-public season-ticket sales totaled 39,793 (including a sold-out 1,970 in premium club and suite seats).

Iowa attracted an average of 67,512 fans to Kinnick Stadium a year ago, or roughly 3,000 below capacity.

As of Friday, that general-public number was 32,656 – or 7,137 fewer than the final 2014 total. However, the final gap is expected to be in the 3,000 to 5,000 range. How much exact lost revenue that would translate to is unclear, with the numerous discounts the school is offering to boost sales. But if Iowa is down 5,000 season tickets at the general-public price of $395 a pop, that equates to $1,975,000.

"We anticipated we were going to be down in public season tickets," athletics director Gary Barta said in an interview with the Des Moines Register, "and we are."

However, the UI thinks it will pick up momentum from season ticket buys from 650 potential new account-holders that either haven't chosen their seats or committed to purchase. The average account-holder has three season tickets, so those new customers could add 1,000 or more to the general-public total. The UI also said it historically sells 2,000 to 3,000 season tickets in July, August and September.

Overall, the UI's target numbers, according to associate athletic director for external relations Rick Klatt, are between 35,000 and 37,000 for the general public.

Even if that pans out, it would still mark a drop of 3,000 to 5,000 public season tickets from 2014 – the largest year-over-year decline in the last 10 years. Iowa lost 1,887 season ticketholders following a bowl-less 6-6 record in 2007, according to data provided by the university.

Iowa's lowest total number of season-ticket sells since 2005 had been 37,125 in 2009 (not counting premium seating). This year's number is all but guaranteed to be much lower as the Hawkeyes try to recover from a 7-6 season in 2014 that Barta has said failed to meet expectations.

Despite the unrest, Barta has consistently given Kirk Ferentz a vote of confidence entering his 17th season as head coach.

"I knew, and we all knew, that we had lost some momentum in Hawkeye football," Barta said Tuesday. "But – and it's an important 'but' – I know the foundation is still strong. So we all knew we just had to continue to work tirelessly, and everybody has, to regain the momentum."

The general public makes up the majority of Iowa's season ticket base. The Register also on Tuesday obtained updated figures in faculty/staff and student purchases.

With two-plus months until the Sept. 5 home opener against Illinois State, faculty/staff sales are at 3,394 (compared with 4,005 last season) and student sales were at 2,434 (compared with 6,440 last season and 10,513 as recently as 2011), Klatt said. However, that student figure is not indicative of what the final number will be – as a bulk of those purchases typically occur after students reach campus in August.

Barta touted "brisk" student sales, especially among incoming freshmen. In 11 of 26 summer-orientation sessions, 992 season tickets have been sold at a discounted rate of $125 (down from the regular rate of $175).

Klatt said the target numbers for faculty/staff are 4,000 to 4,500, and from 6,500 to 7,500 for students.

The UI has been trumpeting two home night games (Sept. 19 vs. Pittsburgh, Nov. 14 vs. Minnesota) and extended tailgating hours with the hopes of enticing more single-game sales, and recently unveiled three-game ticket packages for $157 – at a better per-game deal than a full public season ticket.

Capacity for Kinnick Stadium is 70,585. Iowa has had one sellout (Iowa State last year) in the last two seasons after having sold out the entire season as recently as 2011.

The UI enters the 2015 season with the stated goal is to finish in the top 25 in national attendance (it was 22nd last year) and to see growth in ticket sales, even if that means going the more difficult single-game route.

"We know that it means winning games. We know that it means a fun tailgating environment. And we're focused on that," Barta said. "I've seen it at Iowa, and I've seen it other places. It's doable. It's an attainable goal. And we're not going to rest until we get there."