U drops forced ticket bundling after Dayton complains

Facing student complaints and even sharper criticism from Gov. Mark Dayton, the University of Minnesota said Friday it will not force students to buy football season passes to get season tickets to other sports.

Next year, the university’s athletic department will offer season tickets to individual sports at the same time it offers multiple-sport packages, Senior Associate Athletic Director Chris Werle said.

The decision ends a practice Werle said was designed as a reward for fan loyalty but which some students said locked out those unable to afford more than one sport.

“I think we tried to do something to help our students who are most engaged,” he said. “And I think we did do something to help our most engaged students. In the end, for whatever reason, it didn’t work for the larger group.”

In past summers, the U has allowed students to buy season tickets for just the sports they wanted. For hockey, the price this year was set at $99.

But Werle said this summer the U gave students who bought a season-ticket package of multiple sports first crack at men’s hockey and basketball tickets.

He said giving first dibs on those sports – in addition to the usual package discount – was a way to reward the U’s “best fans.”

If the hockey season tickets didn’t sell out through the package deals in the summer, Werle said, students could buy them in the fall. But students who refused to pay $175 for a package deal found that by fall, package sales had eaten up all the hockey season tickets.

Student Senator Kyle Kroll said such a system either froze out students or unfairly forced them to buy more sports than they wanted.
On Thursday, his fellow student senators agreed, and passed Kroll’s resolution asking the U to drop the practice.

Friday morning, Gov. Dayton intervened with a sharply-worded letter to President Eric Kaler.

Dayton told Kaler he was “appalled” that students are required to buy tickets they don’t want to obtain tickets they do. “The Legislature and I did not provide the additional funding for the University to freeze students’ tuitions over two years so that you could invent other ways to increase their costs,” he wrote.

The governor said the purpose of the bundling appears to be to increase football attendance and raise money.

The right way to do that, he wrote, would be to “play the kind of outstanding football your team displayed in trouncing Michigan last Saturday,” referring to the Gophers’ 30-14 win.

“And,” he added, “I strongly oppose your raising additional sports revenues by overcharging your students.”

Within hours, the U backed away from bundling.

Kroll called the U’s change of heart “awesome. That’s the ideal situation.”

He said, “I genuinely believe they did want to increase student engagement by trying to get students involved in more sports, and just didn’t really think maybe as much about how that would impact some students.”

  • blk

    The Athletic Department is doing the same sort of thing to non-student season ticket holders in sports such as volleyball.

    We’ve had season tickets for women’s volleyball for eighteen years, and this year we were required to give an extra $100 — in addition to the price of two season tickets, which was $210 — in order to keep the seats we’ve had for all that time. If we didn’t pay the ransom, we would have lost our seats and been assigned seats in some random location, without seat backs.

    And it’s not just volleyball. We have friends who used to have season tickets for men’s hockey, and two years ago the Athletic Department demanded $1000 for them to keep their seats. Unwilling to pay such an exorbitant price, they let their season tickets lapse. To add insult to injury, the next time they attended a game they saw North Dakota fans sitting in their former seats.

    The University is not only alienating students, it’s putting off long-time fans in all sports. I realize that the University needs money to support the programs, but their tactics feel like extortion to fans have given literally thousands of dollars to the program over the years.

    The University is treating dedicated fans as badly as the airlines are treating passengers. Given the hassles involved with driving to the U and finding a place to park, a lot of fans are going to simply give up on going to games and just watch them on television. Or find something more constructive to do with their time.

  • JQP

    Astoundingly obtuse and bone-headed.
    What next… if you want a hot dog at the game you have to also buy a cold pizza?