Paying A Premium For UH Seats

Bobby Curran
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Friday - September 09, 2005
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OK, I hear you. The last two weeks have seen our morning radio program (Sports Radio 1420) inundated with callers expressing emotions ranging from despair to puzzlement concerning University of Hawaii ticket policies for sporting events. Mostly, but not exclusively, they are concerned with football.

The UH decided several years ago to implement seat premiums, sometimes called licenses, to purchase season tickets in certain sections of the stadium. The better the seat, the more expensive the charge. This has been a feature of most Division 1-A programs for more than a decade, but it was new to Hawaii and about as popular as volcanic ash. Most people understand that the expenses involving the administration of an athletic program at this level are rising. They also understand that the department must raise revenues; they don’t understand why those monies had to come from them. If you’d been buying four tickets a year in the blue section at the 45-yard line at list price for 25 years, why was that going to change? Why would you now have to pay a premium seat donation of $200 per seat on top of the tickets at $145?

On the face of it, the answer is simple. The athletic department budget is around $18 million and climbing. The cost of line items such as travel, scholarships and salaries is inevitably increasing. All of the proceeds from the premium seat donations go to paying the bill for scholarships.

The athletic department has been given a mandate to become self-sufficient, and they have to find ways to meet those expenses. That the process will be painful to some is not lost on associate A.D. John McNamara, who handles external affairs.

“We know this will be difficult for many of our customers,” says McNamara. “We recognize that we have a large and loyal fan base that has been with us for decades. We’re trying to accommodate everyone as best we can. While the best seats now have considerable premium seat donations attached, many have no premium attached. We’re also putting programs like Family Nights together, so a family can come and enjoy the games at significantly reduced rates. Also the UH Creditback card allows a free ticket with the purchase of three. We appreciate our fans and don’t want to lose any of them.”

The decision was made to link some of the best seats with Ahahui Koa Anuenue, the booster organization that covers all UH sports. Separate from premium seat donations and ticket purchases, AKA members can derive some perks such as parking privileges. A donation of $600 qualifies members for a parking pass. They’re awarded to members in order of donations. There are roughly 1,000 spaces at the football stadium, and about 200 preferred spots for the arena sports. The way it’s working out, the inner circle spots are going to donors who contribute $5,000 or more, the Koa lot which is inside the stadium to the left of Gate 1 is going to donors at the $800 level, and the Kam lot next to Richardson Field is for the $600 donors. The Kam lot has been the subject of numerous complaints. It was formerly open to the general public; now it is passes-only. AKA membership is up to 6,000 and this is one of the consequences.

Ironically, while some are complaining about this exclusivity, bringing the entire ticketing process under the control of AKA was done to ensure fairness.

AKA executive director Vince Baldemor explains: “Before, there were about 15 different ways that people got their tickets. Each sport had its own booster group, and if you didn’t know somebody, you couldn’t get a prime seat. This was designed to make the process more efficient and more fair.” While it may be more expensive in some cases, the process is cleaner.

And UH officials are aware that the work is just beginning.

“If someone has a problem or is not happy,” says McNamara, “please call us. I’ll personally walk over to the ticket office, or I’ll see Vince (Baldemor) and we’ll address their concerns. These are our customers and we want to service them.”

There may continue to be some issues, but you have to love the attitude.

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