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.