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Will Mark Stoops be “steamed” if Kroger Field has lot of empty seats?

Getting more fans to attend games in Kroger Field is a growing problem. (Jeff Houchin Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky is offering discounted tickets for $26 to teachers. Keeneland is making it possible for others to buy tickets for $42. Even today UK officials are having a “flash cash sale” in Paintsville where tickets are only $10.

Yet thousands of tickets remain for Saturday night’s game in Kroger Field against Mississippi State, a ranked and unbeaten team that is 8-1 against UK in the last nine years. It’s also Hall of Fame weekend and former UK basketball star Anthony Davis and former UK football star tight end Jacob Tamme are among those who will be honored during the game.

What’s going on?

Here’s a message I got from one long-time season ticket holder who drives from Alabama to attend most home UK football games (he’s a Louisville native).

“Larry, 14,000 unsold tickets for Saturday? Teacher Appreciation Day? $48 tickets going for $26. What kind of fools are paying full price? Oh wait. I didn’t mean to ask that,” he said knowing he’s one of those season ticket holders who paid full price as well as made a donation to the K Fund.
This fan worries that empty seats for a winning team could create a “chasm” between coach Mark Stoops and athletics director Mitch Barnhart.
“If a coach puts a quality product on the field and the AD can’t sell tickets, the head will be steamed. As you hear every day the University has been eroding the fan base through their indifference towards the long time fans,” the fan said.
“Many fans believe ticket prices are out of line. What is going to happen next year when the cost of season ticket goes up solely because there is one more turkey home game? Time to stop listening to the marketing consultants and start listening to the fans. 
“Stay on this issue Larry. I am afraid it is going to blow up soon. Instead of bullying  the fan base, they should be asking for our ideas. I have a hundred and number one is to fire the marketing consultants they are using. (President Eli) Capilouto is going to get involved in this whether he wants to or not. I notice the attendance at his pre-game receptions is way off, too.”
I think the issue is already blowing up not just at Kentucky but a lot of other places.  Stoops and his players have done all they can to bring fans back to the stadium but crowds of 60,000 or more at Kroger Field are now the exception, not the norm like they used to be.
But I get it. I really do. The cost keeps some away. The ease of just staying at home keeps some away. The better view on TV versus being in the stadium keeps some away and despite what UK is doing this week to try and generate late ticket sales, this is just not an easy problem to solve.

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  1. If UK continues to prosper on the field of play, and climbs into the mix for an East Championship, and potential SEC Championship, the ticket sales will increase in the next couple years I do believe. That said, if there are unsold tickets around now as reported, and for the short term, give the less affluent in the state, who are UK football fans, a piece of the pie by making ticket prices more affordable, maybe $20 to $30 a piece. Lowering food and beverage prices at the stadium would help too, but don’t hold your breath sports fans, it’s called “greed.”

    Also provide more available low cost parking space if possible through future land acquisitions around CWS. There are ways to fill that stadium. The Cash Daniel initiative with $10 tickets available for UK fans in AC 606 is a great start. I suggest doing that all across the state, at different times, until all seats are taken for future game days. Also, have cheap seats available at the stadium on game day right up to kick off.

  2. Being a Kentucky alumni I have lived through untold amounts of whining from fans dating too far back to easily recall. Stoops can’t hold a candle to some of our fanbase. We are in the SEC. You want a winning team, bowl games, and to be in contention for a title in the East, and more. You want a team that is exciting and fun to watch. A team that makes you proud. You have voiced disgust at the products produced on the field in the past. You refuse to accept that fielding such a team in the SEC costs a ton of money. Tickets at UT for the “nose bleed” upper, upper decks range from $100 to $105, each. Bring your own binoculars and they better be good ones. UK tickets are expensive, compared to the past costs. I would have a difficult time justifying a season’s worth of tickets. Two tickets for reasonable seats for one game is a lot, for me. Parking? When I lived in Paris I knew all the roads, streets, and out of the way places that were within easy walking distance. I even used this knowledge to go to Keeneland when I’m able to make it. Still, prices are frustrating and it may be that my income hasn’t kept up with the increase in the cost of everything. This Kentucky team is one of the most exciting and talented teams I have seen take the field. I know we’ve had exciting players in the past, but we haven’t had enough of them to break through a mid-level ceiling. We now have the depth to hang with the “haves” in the SEC. Terry Wilson is the real deal. Benny is too, and there are too many to name. We all wanted this kind of a team, and now that we have what we said we wanted we complain that it costs too much. One option I’ve seen that has countered the increased costs has come through corporate sponsors. They buy blocks of tickets and disperse them to their employees and others. Maybe we need to find more corporate sponsors willing to do this. We need to fill the seats for important games for sure. It makes a difference to the players and makes it more difficult for the opposing team. It gives us an edge. This is why Stoops wants fans in the seats. Loud, raucous fans. He’s not in the ticket selling business as such. Not directly in any event. He’s in the business of winning football games. A full stadium makes a difference in recruiting talented, elite players. No need to get on Stoops case for wanting a full stadium.

    1. William, good points, but the UK brass brought this on themselves by jacking season ticket holders around with different seats, etc. All these big sponsors you mention are apparently not filling seats. UK priced many of us out of seeing games live in Lexington many years ago. The SEC channel has made game viewing a lot easier for people like me on fixed incomes. Prices for tickets and even pop corn and drinks, have gotten worse, ridiculous really, the last decade. By the time I pay for health insurance, my monthly bills, and tithe to the local church, not much left for UK.

      Current times have made football in the SEC for the rich only unless one just wants to get deeper in debt. Yeah it costs money to have a big time program today, but don’t tell me there is not some greed attached to these prices too. UK sends these basketball teams all over the world, and pays coaches and AD’s million dollar incomes. They cut me out years ago my friend. I really don’t care what people have to pay for seats at Tennessee, but I understand your point. UK better get used to empty seats for now unless they make some changes.

  3. They lowered ticket prices and still can’t sell the seats. That ought to tell them something. They should have been loyal to their supporters instead of treating them like second class citizens.

    It’s not just ticket prices. I know Kentucky people. They don’t like losing their good seats to those corporate types that really couldn’t care less about the team. They might be able to make the Final 4 and other big time college events completely the realm of the wealthy and privileged but try that in Lexington and you will get a stadium with a lot of empty seats. Luxury boxes and club seats were both VERY bad ideas for UK.

    It’s going to be the same at Rupp. Rupp has a long tradition of being full. It won’t be with privileged people seats taking up too much of the good areas to sit. UK tickets have been passed down generations. Now those people will be shafted just like the football fans. Watch and see if UK basketball, the ultimate fan support program, has a hard time with the planned luxury boxes etc.. It was already the case that privileged types got the good seats at Rupp. But it wasn’t based on who could pay outrageous prices like those for luxury boxes. It was based on rabid fans into the 4th generation of UK support who have held onto their tickets like they were made of 10 pounds of gold. When they insult those people there will be problems.

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