The Season Ticket Dilemma

June 10, 2015

Written by Ross Peterson

Hawkeye Nation

It’s a big moment for every Iowa fan. A true milestone in your journey as a fan. That day you make the decision to buy season tickets for the first time!

My friends took the plunge a few years before me. I was one of the guys who would pick off tickets from the group when a member couldn’t make it.  You know how it works.

As corny as it might sound, I honestly remember being proud of my purchase that fist year I bought my season tickets. Almost giddy. I called my Dad, like I had accomplished something. What kind of dork am I?

I was jacked up. I couldn’t wait for the season to start. The planning was underway… transportation, parking, food, and fun! I’m no grill-master, so I focused on the fun. And it lived up to every expectation!

We were in Section 101. In the east stands, looking across the north end zone. Basically under the water tower. It’s actually one of the visitors sections. You stare into the sun with your body cocked at a 45 degree angle so you can face the field. You know how small those seats are to begin with, right? My friends are all big guys. I’m by far the smallest. We were always accused of having too many people for our 7 seats. (Even those few times we really only had 7 with us) It’s the absolute lowest priced, no donation, season ticket you can buy. But we made the most of it. And we brought the party.

When we showed up we were the guys who made sure everybody knew we were there. We wanted everybody around us to have as much fun as we were having, and most people did! Most, not all.

We made black and gold koozies that said “I sit in the LEGENDARY section 101 at Historic Kinnick Stadium”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it’s the only section at Kinnick Stadium that has it’s own Facebook page. We were the first section to make the “Panchero’s Burrito Lift” halfway interesting, by throwing the afore mentioned smallest member of our group into the air. We would have our own motivational speeches at halftime. Usually quoting as much Goonies or Braveheart as one could muster. We had so much fun, Gary Barta wrote us a letter he signed personally. It might have mentioned something about a ticket holder getting caught with a bottle, but I just remember it had his signature and basically said “Hey, these guys came to party!”

Like so many stories I’ve heard, we became friends with the other season ticket holders around us. Those friendships became like the cool kids you hung out with at camp. Every year we had these precious few days to hang out together, and we were all on the same team along for the same ride. We all bought in to the same party.

Darren and his wife sat in front of us. Well, Darren never actually sat down. Seriously, for four years he NEVER sat down at Kinnick. I don’t mean he was annoying and always in your way. I mean he was always cheering for the Hawks. He was always turning to talk to us about the game. He was always trying to get the other people around him to have more fun.

Brant and Nathan sat behind us. Exactly the same as Darren. There to have fun, yell for the Hawks and make sure other people were enjoying themselves. But they would sit down occasionally.

These guys I’m talking about, Darren, Brant, Nathan, they’re real guys. Real Hawkeye fans. Real season ticket holders that can tell you real stories about those days in 101. Great stories and great times. But all good things come to end.

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Those real guys, those real Hawkeye fans with years of season ticket purchases under their belts in their 30’s… Those guys have decided NOT to purchase their 2015 season tickets.

You might think that’s shortsighted.  Here’s their argument:

1- Buying tickets for under face value is a common occurrence for Iowa home games. See, these guys still plan on coming to games, but they can save money and still be inside the stadium by kickoff. With this year’s home schedule, they’re going to gamble that tickets will not be in high demand as in years past. A safe bet.

2- You literally can’t get worse seats than the ones issued to us as “Season Tickets” that we were so proud of. There have been no perks involved with simply purchasing your season tickets every year without an additional donation. If they decide to buy again in 2 years, or 3 years, or 10 years, they’ll probably be back in the exact same section.

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Darren even had a story of family members getting free tickets to a game last year. From a stranger! I talked to him while typing this, just to reminisce and make sure my information was correct. He said that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Others were sitting in better seats for nothing.

Those were his 2 biggest points. Basically… There’s nothing to lose. He won’t have to pay over face value for any home game this year and his quality of seat can only increase.

What can the University do about it? I don’t know. I honestly don’t think they care. A couple of guys that don’t donate outside of their season ticket purchase are walking away. 4 season tickets. What’s that? $1500? They don’t care.

But It’s a trend. The game day experience has been lacking for a few years. It seems to me that whoever is in charge quit taking ideas around 1991. Enter Sandman? Back in Black? Start Me Up? Do they know the most current of those songs is almost 25 years old?

Do you know your students are pulling out their Shazam apps to find out what you’re playing? No you don’t, because you don’t even know what a Shazam app is.

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Then the band would roll out some awful tribute to Glenn Miller. Oh I know, he’s an American Icon and he was born in Clarinda. Terrific. While you were telling us his history, half the student section walked out.

I don’t need any of these things to enjoy my time at Hawkeye games. But it sure would help the overall experience. Better halftime shows aren’t going to help win games or convince people to buy season tickets. I know this.

I know they’ve tried to make some changes the past year. And I know this is not just an Iowa problem. A lot of schools are having trouble with dwindling attendance and there are a million factors. Walking away from the comforts of home is getting harder and harder.

Winning cures all, and it will only take one great season to get everybody back on board. But in the meantime, there are issues that should be addressed.

The guys I talked about aren’t staying home. They’re tired of paying too much money for bad seats. They’re not walking away from their season tickets because they’re tired of Kirk Ferentz style of play. They’re walking away because theirs no real incentive for them to continue shelling out that extra money.

The allure of buying those tickets has washed away. The prestige of being a season ticket holder has faded. There is another generation waiting to make that call to their Dad. And if they show up and hear Dad’s music, and don’t hear the University’s appreciation for giving up money…. not as much as money as others, but still hard earned dollars…that generation may make an even quicker transition back to the living room.

But don’t tell the University any of this. It’s not that I don’t want them to know, or don’t want them to work on fixing it. It’s that I don’t want you to waste your energy.

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