Leistikow: The latest on Iowa football ticket sales for the 2023 season

Chad Leistikow
Des Moines Register

Iowa football fans will return in droves to watch the Hawkeyes play again in 2023, debunking any social-media bluster that there would be a mass Kinnick Stadium exodus due to the Hawkeyes’ historically bad (and sometimes unwatchable) offense.

In fact, just three months and change ahead of the Hawkeyes’ Sept. 2 opener against Utah State, season ticket sales are humming at a strong rate, the University of Iowa is reporting.

“We’re ahead of pace from where we were in 2021,” Matt Henderson, the UI’s deputy director of athletics for external relations, said in an interview with the Des Moines Register. “We feel confident with the great support of our fans and the success of our team that we’re going to have great crowds in Kinnick Stadium again this year.”

The Hawkeyes’ home schedule doesn’t have the same allure as it did in 2022, when Iowa State, Michigan and Wisconsin were part of the seven-game home lineup and spurred rapid single-ticket sales.

This year’s home seven are Utah State, Western Michigan (Sept. 16), Michigan State (Sept. 30), Purdue (Oct. 7), Minnesota (Oct. 21), Rutgers (Nov. 11) and Illinois (Nov. 18). Good luck picking a marquee opponent from that lineup. For what it's worth, Iowa made the Minnesota game its "Black and Gold Spirit Game" (aka the stripe-out).

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In 2022, Iowa sold out its entire slate, at a full 69,250 fans, for the first time in 11 years. In fact, Iowa has sold out 10 of its last 11 games at Kinnick (the 2021 finale vs. Illinois being the exception), dating to Iowa’s historic 23-20 win against Penn State on Oct. 9, 2021, in a top-five matchup.

Fans stormed the field after No. 3 Iowa's 23-20 win against No. 4 Penn State on Oct. 9, 2021. The Hawkeyes have had sellout crowds in 10 of their last 11 home games.

The university doesn’t anticipate it will sell out the season again, but the numbers are trending nicely for packed or nearly packed stadiums again this fall.

According to Henderson, a strong renewal rate for season tickets is 90% to 94%. Around 90% renewed this year, with new season ticket orders (so far) topping 2,700. In total, Iowa has sold around 52,000 season tickets plus more than 1,300 of their allotted 1,500 “Fight For Iowa” mobile passes, which give fans a discounted price ($299 for the season) but varying seats each week based on availability.

In 2021, Iowa season-ticket sales were at 47,200 (including students) plus 1,134 “Fight For Iowa” passes.

In 2022, those numbers rose to 53,200 season tickets plus 1,480 “Fight For Iowa” passes.

“From a season-ticket standpoint, we’re sitting in really good shape,” Henderson said. “Premium seating, they’re operating at about a 100% renewal rate.”

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Fans seeking premium seating can reach out to the university ticket office and be placed on a wait list.

That 52,000 total for 2023 includes 6,000 tickets for returning UI students, with that allotment selling out in two hours. Another 2,500 student tickets (which cost $175 annually) will be sold this summer as new students go through orientation.

“We fully expect students to be sold out on a season-ticket basis again, at that 8,500 number,” Henderson said.

Iowa did reduce the overall cost of a general-public season ticket entering this season, from $450 to $425 at top-end locations (an average of $60.71 per game) and from $345 to $335 ($47.86 per game) at other seat locations. Perhaps that was an admission of fewer marquee opponents … or a frustrating offense that averaged 251.6 yards per game, ranking 130th out of 131 FBS teams and the worst in Power Five football since 2014.

But excitement has been generated behind the arrival of Michigan transfer quarterback Cade McNamara. The recent addition of Ohio State receiver Kaleb Brown adds to the intrigue of how the Hawkeyes’ overhauled offense might look. Iowa returns the majority of a defense than ranked No. 1 nationally a year ago plus elite special-teams units.

How good the team is this season will be one of many factors in how close Iowa comes to sellout status in each game.

Game times are always a factor, too. Kick times for the first three matchups – including the road trip to Iowa State on Sept. 9 – plus Homecoming (vs. Purdue) should be revealed by the end of the month. The 2024 and 2025 Big Ten schedules, which include the introduction of Southern California and UCLA to the conference, should also be known soon. Henderson emphasized that fans who sign up for season tickets now can be in line for renewals and seat locations in those potentially attractive future years.

Some notable dates ahead:

  • June 8: “Mini plans” will go on sale to the general public. (Donors can start buying them June 5.) These three-game packages have become popular for those who want to cherry-pick games and can’t commit to full-season plans. Fans can choose between Michigan State, Minnesota and Rutgers ($235 per seat for sideline location, $195 for end zone) or Western Michigan, Purdue and Illinois ($195 for sideline, $170 for end zone).
  • July 5: Group tickets and Hawkeye Village tickets will go on sale.
  • July 20: Single-game tickets will become available to the general public. (Donors can begin purchasing on July 17.)

Iowa averaged 66,777 fans per game in 2021. Over the past five seasons with fans (excluding the COVID-19 year of 2020), Kinnick’s average attendance is 67,274.

Bottom line, it looks like Kinnick will be full or nearly full on seven Saturdays this fall.

“If you look at 2021 or the last five years, we are trending to be equal to or above that,” Henderson said.

“I don’t know if we’ll sell out every game like we did last year, but we clearly are tracking (positively). We’d hope to do that. We’d love to do that. But we’ll just have to see how the demand goes for each game.”

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 28 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.