With revenues lagging behind expenses in projections for the 2018-19 budget, the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department wants to raise season ticket prices for two of its many successful programs.
The UW Athletic Board’s Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee on Wednesday approved a recommendation for price hikes in 2018 for football and volleyball.
If the full board approves the measure at its next meeting on Jan. 19, general public football tickets would climb $6 per game to $54, or $378 for a seven-home season. That’s a 12.5 percent increase over prices that have been in place for the past three seasons.
Student season tickets for football are proposed to increase from $24 to $27 per game.
And UW is seeking to raise general public volleyball season tickets in a range of $5 to $35 for the season. The highest price would grow from $65 last season to $100 in 2018.
Associate athletic director for business operations Mario Morris said that the football increases would generate about $2 million in additional revenue.
He told the committee that the working 2018-19 budget has a deficit of more than $2.9 million that needs to be filled because of salary increases and growth in capital expenditures.
“It’s been three years since we’ve taken a look at ticket prices, and we felt that this was an appropriate request,” Morris said.
The football request passed the committee with one no vote, from Law School professor Gretchen Viney. She questioned why an increase was needed when previous budgets underestimated ticket sales by around $1 million.
Morris said the department was “very conservative in our estimates” on previous football ticket sales.
He said UW’s higher football season ticket prices would continue to rank 10th in the Big Ten Conference when mandatory per-seat contributions are added.
According to UW’s data, five of 13 other Big Ten schools had higher base season ticket prices in 2017 than the $378 UW is proposing for 2018: Ohio State ($695), Michigan ($430), Iowa ($405), Nebraska ($399) and Penn State ($385).
“We think this is a great value if you look compared to the conference,” Morris told the committee. “Our philosophy has always been ... we only ask for ticket increases when we need it.”
Viney debated whether income levels are as high in Wisconsin as they are in other Big Ten locations.
“I have a concern about pricing our tickets,” she said.
UW was 7-0 at Camp Randall Stadium in 2017 and finished 13-1 after defeating Miami (Fla.) in the Orange Bowl.
The Badgers were 15th nationally in with an average announced attendance of 78,824.
In volleyball, UW set a school attendance record and was third nationally with an average of 5,980 that represented 99.5 percent of the listed capacity. That prompted school officials to give the long sought go-ahead for repairs to the upper deck of the Field House to allow for more ticket sales.
UW’s request for new prices for volleyball at the Field House included a split in reserved seating. A total of 572 seats would be sold for $100 per season, while 1,500 other reserved locations would cost $85. Both were priced at $65 in 2017.
The general admission season ticket price increases proposed were $10 for adults (to $60) and $5 for youth and seniors (to $30). A four-pack of general admission season tickets would cost $125 instead of $99.
Prices for individual games are slated to climb $2, to $9 for reserved seats and $7 for general admission.
Early projections presented to the committee on Wednesday showed expenses for 2018-19 exceeding $145 million, a 9.5 percent increase over the 2017-18 budget.
Morris said the additional ticket costs were expected to bump total revenue to around $144 million. The remainder of the budget balancing was set to come through trimming expenses.
The projected increase in expenses is due in part to a 4 percent salary increase for state employees, Morris said. Other factors are increases in financial aid for scholarships and a nearly 13 percent jump in capital expenditures, to more than $12.8 million.
Included in the latter, Morris said, are design fees for two major renovation projects on the horizon. At the Kohl Center, UW hopes to add student-athlete training facilities and new offices in the southeast corner.
And at Camp Randall, seating behind the south end zone has been studied for reconfiguring for club seats.
Those projects haven’t been approved, Morris said, but it was necessary to budget for work toward that end.
Other capital projects planned for 2018-19, he said, include a renovation of the outdoor pavilion at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium, a remodeling of the softball locker room and weather-related bunker and cart path repairs at University Ridge Golf Course.
The final budget is due to be considered by the Athletic Board in February.