ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When the New Mexico Lobos inked a deal to hit the road to play a game in December against perennial college basketball power Kansas, there wasn’t much question it was going to draw plenty of fan interest in Albuquerque.
When UNM saw just how many of its boosters in the Lobo Club were lining up for tickets, it decided to do something it hadn’t done in the past.
UNM will charter a flight for the team’s travel party and fans to Kansas City, Mo., for the Dec. 14 game being played in the Sprint Center. The Jayhawks play one game there each season in a game dubbed the Kansas City Shootout instead of at the usual home confines of Phog Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.
“Obviously it’s an attractive national game,” Tim Cass, UNM deputy athletic director, said. “We thought it would be interesting to put together a donor support trip.”
The trip, offered initially to top-level Lobo Club donors for between $875 and $925 per person for game ticket, airfare, ground transportation and a hotel room, sold out almost immediately, Cass said.
Technically, UNM is chartering only a Southwest Airlines flight back from Kansas City, and the flight there is a regularly scheduled Southwest flight out of Albuquerque’s Sunport in which UNM was able to book all 137 seats. Cass said the cost of the flight out and charter back is “approximately $65,000,” which will more than be covered by the 110 Lobo Club members who have purchased the travel package. Also attending will be the standard team travel party in the 24-27 range.
The additional revenue stream to cover travel expenses for the team will also come in handy considering the $90,000 Kansas is paying UNM to play in the game has already been earmarked to partially cover the Lobos’ August trip to Australia (as is the $35,000 UNM is receiving to play Marquette in Las Vegas, Nev., on Dec. 21).
In addition to the normal allotment of about 40-50 tickets UNM receives for most road games, Kansas also made available to the school 200 tickets for fan purchase through UNM for $92 apiece (by contrast, UNM tickets in the Pit range from $19 to $37). Of those, 110 tickets are already accounted for as part of the donor chartered trip and the remaining 90 tickets will likely be accounted for by Lobo Club members on a waiting list for the tickets who were not able to join the charter but still plan to attend the game and travel on their own.
Other general admission tickets must be purchased through the Sprint Center’s website or through the University of Kansas.
Cass said he is unaware of a previous chartered flight, especially to this scale of more than 100 seats, for donors in the past at UNM and certainly not in his eight years in an administrative role.
Kansas went 31-6 last season, losing to eventual NCAA championship finalist Michigan in the Sweet 16. The Jayhawks this offseason landed the sports’ most coveted recruit in 6-foot-8 guard/forward Andrew Wiggins, who some have said could have been the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft if he had been eligible.
RECRUITING BUZZ: The UNM coaching staff hasn’t let off the gas on the recruiting trail with the beginning of the season on them.
While coaches were all over the country this week visiting prospective recruits, several possible future Lobos are making their way to Albuquerque in the coming weeks.
Justin Simon, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound shooting guard from Temecula (Calif.) Valley High School, is making an unofficial visit (paid for by Simon, not UNM) to the UNM campus this weekend.
Joe Furstinger, a 6-foot-8 forward from Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic School, will make an official visit Oct. 4. Furstinger plays for coach Jeff Reinert, who played for UNM for two seasons (1980-82).
Zylan Cheatham, a top-100 rated player from Phoenix is visiting UNM on an official trip Oct. 18, the night of the nationally televised Lobo Howl. Cheatham told the Journal via text message he changed his original visit from Oct. 11 to see the Howl.
SEASON TICKETS: As of Monday, UNM had sold 10,228 season ticket renewals, 244 ahead of last year’s pace for renewals on the same date, according to associate athletic director for ticketing Mark Koson.
The Lobos had 11,053 season-ticket holders (that doesn’t include 1,065 tickets reserved for students for each game) for the 2012-13 season in the 15,411-capacity Pit.
New season tickets go on sale Oct. 1 and start at $285.