Ohio State increasing ticket prices

Published 11:30 pm Saturday, February 6, 2010

COLUMBUS — It’s likely going to cost more green to follow the scarlet and gray.

Ohio State’s Board of Trustees will vote Friday on a proposal to increase 2010-2011 football ticket prices as much as $7 apiece, basketball tickets as much as $1 and membership dues at the university’s golf course as much as $70 a year.

“We really struggled with doing this,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said Wednesday. “We know what’s going on economically with everybody. We know with many of our fans, it might be a challenge. It’s something we had to do with the large program we had. We hope they’ll find a way to stay with us.”

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Smith said the increases were needed to offset increases in operating costs and losses caused by a flagging economy. He said concessions revenue was down 9 percent and merchandise revenue another 26 percent, with payroll and other expenses rising 10 percent.

Ohio State, in terms of intercollegiate sports offered, is the largest program in the country with 36 sports, ranging from football and basketball to pistol, rifle, rowing, fencing and synchronized swimming. The athletic budget a year ago was $115 million, even after across-the-board hold-downs on travel and other expenses. Smith said he and OSU president E. Gordon Gee agreed that no sports should be cut.

“This is who we are,” said Smith, who pointed out that a member of the Ohio State pistol team competed in the most recent Olympics and that such sports provide numerous opportunities for student-athletes.

Football tickets would go up $7 to $70 for reserved seats, and would be raised $4, to a price of $56, for faculty and staff. Student prices would increase $1 to $32. The Buckeyes play eight home games this fall.

“We’re the highest-priced ticket now in the Big Ten, but if you look at Texas for example, or around the SEC, we’re right in the middle,” Smith said. “We don’t do premium pricing like some schools do, where they charge more for a particular game. They may ask $90 or $100 for a ticket.”

But we have declined to do that.”

Some tickets prices were also raised a dollar a year ago to stem losses. The largest increase ever, according to Smith, was $10 in 2004 for reserved seats in football.

The proposal also calls for the prices of men’s basketball tickets to be raised $1, making a reserved seat $18. Faculty/staff and students would pay 50 cents more, too $23 and $15, respectively.

A year ago, men’s basketball lost about $350,000, an alarming amount for a program that had brought in money for decades. Smith said the losses could be greater in the current season.

“We’re kind of looking at something similar, maybe a little north of $350,000,” he said. “We could make up a little of it in these last few games.”

The Buckeyes are currently ranked 13th and have one of the nation’s top players in Evan Turner. Yet they didn’t sell out a key Big Ten game on Sunday despite good weather, a quality opponent (Minnesota) and a much anticipated ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the 1960 national championship team.

Fees at the Ohio State golf courses also will likely be raised. Individual alumni memberships would increase $70 to $2,395, while faculty and staff would pay $44 more at $1,860 a year. A student membership would rise $15 to $575 per year. Greens fees will remain the same, $70 at the Nicklaus-redesigned Scarlet Course and $44 at the shorter, less demanding Gray Course.

For years the athletic department had been so flush that it returned money to the university’s general fund, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years with the debt service on a new arena, almost $200 million in a reconstruction of the football stadium, and new baseball, soccer, track and softball stadiums.

The athletic department instituted cuts in all sports in the past couple of years and has been able to limit its deficit by reducing the size of traveling parties, eliminating media guides and making other changes.

Smith said with eight home football games this fall, seven in 2011 and eight more in 2012, he hoped the ticket-price increases will be enough to stave off more financial problems.

“This is a fix for hopefully the next few years,” he said.