Improving Fan Relations and Ticket Sales – Summary

Story by Derek Pech

Photo: @webcentrick

Ankeny, Iowa – In recent days, the University of Iowa announced that it is looking for an outside company to help improve fan relations and ticket sales. Yesterday morning we shared this information on the Hawkeye Heaven Facebook page and then asked all you Hawkeye fans to share your opinion on what the University of Iowa can do to sell more tickets and improve fan relations. Rest assured, we always appreciate the engagement we get out of our followers and we have forwarded your responses on to some big wigs in the athletic department.

Now, in this article I’m going to do my best to summarize the feedback we received from all of you. The catch here is that I’m going to list the responses in order of which I think is most likely to happen to least likely to happen (most likely being first and least likely being last).

1. Just Win Baby 

Winning cures everything, and there’s zero reason the University of Iowa would be against this. Hawkeye fans are some of the most loyal in the entire country. Kinnick and Carver will fill up if the football and basketball teams start to win more games. This is a proven fact and it will not change. Winning is the easiest way to increase ticket sales and fan relations. Now, I’m well aware that consistently winning in the Big Ten Conference is a tall task, but it is by far the easiest and most effective way to get more butts in the seats and increase revenue.

2. Better Food Selection

Improving the food at concession stands was consistently mentioned in all of the comments we received, and it should be a relatively easy thing to accomplish. This is a growing trend in stadiums across the country. The University wouldn’t have to change that much in order to offer better options. Plenty of food vendors would be knocking at the door to get inside Kinnick or Carver. Reach out to them. See what your options are and then make the upgrade. Not only does this satisfy the fans craving for better food, but it should also help increase revenue.

3. Improve Family Atmosphere with Kids Zone + Family Ticket Perks 

One of our followers, Liz Aune Lotz, mentioned this idea and I thought it was brilliant. I’m a family man myself. We currently live in Ankeny. It would be much easier for me to convince my wife to make the trip over to a couple Hawkeye games a year if there was an improved effort to welcome families. A “Kids Zone” area with inflatables and different activities is a great idea. The focus now is pretty much tailgating and the game. Give parents with kids an option to make it a fun day out that doesn’t require tailgating in a lot filled with a bunch of people who are binge drinking. No, I don’t have any issue with that taking place. In fact, I love myself a good tailgate with my buddies, but now that I’m a father I’ll be the first one to admit that some of the stuff that goes on in tailgating lots probably isn’t the best for young kids to be around. Give families that want to keep their kids away from that atmosphere another option.

Better yet, come up with some sort of Family Ticket Package that allows guys like me to buy 4 tickets to a game that includes some perks for the family. The perks could include access to this hypothetical “Kids Zone” and maybe some discounted prices at the concession stands.

4. Improve Gameday Atmosphere

This goes hand in hand with #3 and #5 for that matter. Brian Ferentz mentioned this a couple years ago, and I think they have made some improvements since then, but it should be a never-ending effort to continue to improve. They need to continue to update the music that is played during games. They could look at increasing the number of activities available for fans to participate in around the stadium prior to the gates opening. A few people even mentioned opening up the parking ramps in and around Kinnick Stadium for tailgating. All of these are great ideas.

5. Upgrade Sound System and WiFi 

This is pretty self-explanatory. Many of you fans mentioned this in the comment section which shows that it is a big deal and it should be addressed. With all of the other upgrades going on in Kinnick year after year there’s no reason this can’t happen.

6. Move Student Section at Carver 

Paul Swaney, who writes for Bleacher Report, put together a Stadium Journey series and when he visited Carver Hawkeye Arena this was his assessment of the Iowa student section (check his article out HERE):

Now the bad news—the student section was absolutely the weakest of the student sections that I’ve seen. Part of it is the seating alignment; they are very spread out and not in large numbers in any one location. I will say that the pep band did their best, and the tuba players were especially active, but all said this student body needs to get it together. Granted, Iowa has been bad for a few years, but that’s where real fans show their metal.

Hawkeye fans feel your pain Paul. This is something that has been complained about for years. I personally emailed Gary Barta several years ago to voice my displeasure about the seating arrangements inside Carver. The response I got was basically that nothing is going to change because their big donors sit up front. It’s incredibly frustrating when you see the atmosphere that other Division 1 men’s basketball teams get to play in front of, and then as Hawkeye fans we see the mausoleum that is Carver.

It’s frustrating because something can and should be done about it. The fans deserve it. The students deserve it. The players deserve it, and the coaches deserve it. The University of Iowa should be doing everything it can to improve the atmosphere inside Carver and this is consistently the #1 point that is mentioned and it almost always seems like it’s ignored. Listen to your fans and FIX IT!

7. Lower Ticket Prices 

Ahhh. This is the lightning rod complaint right here. Roughly 1/3 of the feedback received had to do with ticket prices being too high, and I have to admit I’m in the same boat. I don’t disagree with anyone who has that opinion, but part of me changing my mind on that has to do with the fact that I’m about to have a family of four (another little one due in July). When I was a single guy who was only responsible for paying for one ticket I didn’t take as much issue with it. I just thought people were complaining simply to complain, but now that I’m a family man and I live in Ankeny the price to attend a game is certainly a factor. I have a better understanding of that now. I guess you could say my perspective has changed.

Honestly, I don’t have access to information necessary for me to make a fair judgement on whether or not the price the University of Iowa has set for football tickets is justified. I’m sure they have experts who look at all of the information they have available and then they set their prices based upon what they think is best for their budget. It can become complicated pretty quickly when you attempt to do the math here. For example, lowering the ticket price by $10 a ticket may get more people in the stadium, but will it get enough more people in to justify lowering the cost? There’s a fine line there and I trust they are setting their prices according to what they think is going to be the most profitable rate. If they aren’t doing that then they wouldn’t be running a very good business, and I certainly don’t think that’s the case.

What I will say is that they better have a good season this year or else they are going to have to lower the prices next year in order to keep the attendance up. Hawkeye fans will start to lose their patience if this isn’t a good season, and if the University then turns around and asks them for the same amount of money or more next year I imagine many of them will say no thanks.

Again, this all goes back to #1. Winning will cure everything with this conversation, but the team has to win in order to justify these ticket prices.

8. Better Non-Conference Scheduling

Northern Illinois, UNI, North Texas, Wyoming, Miami of Ohio, North Dakota State, and Illinois state are all some of the teams Iowa has scheduled in their non-conference games over the past several years. For comparison sake,  in recent years Wisconsin has played Alabama and LSU and Nebraska has played Oregon, Miami, and BYU..

The Hawkeyes could, and probably should, try to step it up a little bit. If you want to get fans inside the stadium then schedule games against legitimate big-time opponents.

That pesky in-state rivalry game against Iowa State is always part of the conversation here. If Iowa State can continue to improve then that will help Iowa’s strength of schedule, but it would still be nice to have a least one more non-conference game against a team from a Power 5 conference. Let’s say a home and home series against Arkansas or South Carolina for example. Obviously this would help with strength of schedule, it would get more people in the stadium, and it would also help with recruiting.

9. Increase Seating Space 

As a big man with broad shoulders I’m all about this one, but I don’t see it happening. At least not for awhile. It would require a major renovation and the University would have to be convinced that they need to either expand the stadium or decrease the maximum capacity to allow for this to happen. I don’t think they are going to expand the stadium because they are already having issues selling it out.

If this were to happen I think it’s more likely that they swallow their pride and say the heck with it… Let’s focus on filling Kinnick with 60,000 people and making them comfortable and happy instead of trying to squeeze 72,000 in like sardines. That would help to justify an elevated ticket price because those fans are getting a more comfortable experience. Plus you could look at other options like selling beer to help make up for the loss in revenue that they would notice from lowering the capacity.

10. Sell Beer 

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta has made it pretty clear that he’s against selling beer in Kinnick (or in Carver for that matter). In a Land of 10 article by Kevin Cunningham that was posted last week Barta said the following in regards to alcohol sales in the stadium:

“I would never begin selling beer or alcohol because of an increase in revenue,” Barta said. “It’s something that we’re not having active discussions. I watch what’s going on around the country. I’m aware. If the tipping point every happens nationally, then it would be more about customer service, not about trying to make an extra dollar. If the tipping point ever occurs.”

Keep in mind Iowa has sold beer and wine in the luxury seats at Kinnick since 2006. I don’t see it happening for the masses for quite some time. I think we will eventually reach a point where all NCAA programs will end up selling alcohol inside stadiums, but Iowa won’t go there until everyone else does.

There are obvious benefits and risks involved when you make a decision to sell booze inside the stadium. Most of us have probably been to an NFL game and seen first hand what a loaded up fan sitting nearby can look and sound like. A few years ago I would have been all for it. Once again, now that I’m a family man my perspective has changed a little bit.

Whether you want booze in the stadium or not there’s no sense discussing it any further at this time. It sounds like Barta is sticking to his guns for the foreseeable future.

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