UTEP Fans Won’t Pay High Prices to Watch Miner Basketball
Don't look now, but Joe Golding has UTEP playing some of its best basketball of the season. The Miners are currently on a five game win streak and the team is showing signs of improvement as they head into the month of February. Unfortunately for the team, attendance at the Don Haskins Center has not increased.
This past week, the Miners won defeated FAU and FIU at the Don Haskins Center. The announced crowd of 4,458 for Thursday and 4,864 Saturday night was well short of what Coach Golding and his team deserve for their efforts on the court. Despite these low numbers, UTEP is averaging 4,297 fans per game, good for second best in C-USA behind Old Dominion (5,092). Judging from tickets sold, the school will need to slash their prices if they want to see a spike in attendance.
Lack of UTEP crowd support has always been one of my favorite topics to rant about on-air. However, this time, the empty arena has absolutely nothing to do with Miners fans. Instead, it is a clear sign that the Athletic Department has overpriced their individual game tickets to their fan base.
UTEP only has four home games left, starting with Marshall on February 13th. According to the university's ticket site, the lowest priced seat for the Miners and Thundering Herd is $14 at the top of the arena. Depending on which section you would like to sit, the prices go up to $16 for rows 35 to 39. Once you get from row 34 to row 25, the price increases from $16 to $26 per ticket. The biggest jump includes row 24 and down. The lowest priced ticket is $36 and the highest is $58. For a family of four, that means $144 up to $232 to sit 24 rows or better from the floor, without including parking or concessions. That is a very expensive night out for any El Paso family.
Why did the top single game tickets suddenly jump from the high $20s to as much as $60? The easiest answer is that the UTEP Athletic Department added in the donation amount of the season ticket into the individual game price. For example, the Gold Season Ticket is priced at $825, which included $655 going to the Miner Athletic Club. UTEP divided the $825 ticket by 15 home games (not counting the Weststar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational), the average price is $55 per game. For years, single game tickets did not include a donation.
For UTEP fans who did not buy season tickets but would still like to go and watch this team play, you can find values by playing with the seat map on the UTEP ticket site. For example, Section B has good tickets remaining in rows 25-27 for $16 each. Similar priced seats are available in corner and end sections around the arena, as long as you are not lower than row 25. UTEP has a dynamic pricing structure for their games, which means that UAB and North Texas are a few dollars higher per ticket than Marshall and Rice. If you are wondering about women's basketball, their best orange single game seats will cost only $10 or $12 each, depending on the opponent.
Last Saturday night, NMSU packed the Pan Am Center with 12,306 fans to watch the Aggies defeat Grand Canyon in their annual Whiteout Game. Grand Canyon filled up one section with a group of rowdy fans who made the trip from Phoenix. The rest were made up of NMSU crazies. Director of Athletics Mario Moccia has refused to sell the upper bowl of the Pan Am Center unless the lower bowl is sold out. It is also interesting to see how NMSU priced their tickets for their big rivalry game with GCU.
The most expensive ticket that fans could purchase was priced at $15. It is not surprising that NMSU filled up the Pan Am with $5, $12, and $15 tickets available. It will be interesting to see if they can capitalize on their big night when first place Seattle comes to town on Saturday night.
As for UTEP, I hope they take a page from their soon to be C-USA and I-10 rivals and offer up some great ticket deals for their final four home games. The team deserves it and it has been more than five years since the last sellout (50th anniversary of 1966 team against Western Kentucky). If the UTEP Athletic Department is worried about their season ticket holders complaining about lowering prices in their zones, offer more incentives to their season ticket holders. It could be anything from a signed team photo, to a chancer to watch practice, a season ticket holder dinner, on-court opportunities prior to the season, etc. The university sent out a release today offering season ticket memberships for football, so it will be interesting what they offer their football members for the fall. Once the UTEP Athletic Department takes a page out of the Chihuahuas and Locomotive handbooks and offer up incentive-laden packages for season seats, the easier it will be to discount the arena during the season and fill up the Don like the old days.