UNM needs big season at the gate for men’s, women’s basketball

Tuesday night, there will be women’s basketball in the Pit.

Wednesday, Dreamstyle Arena ushers in the men’s college basketball season.

In both cases, the University of New Mexico is eager to get started for two programs boasting plenty of talent and plenty of expectations for the season ahead. The women’s team was picked in a preseason poll to finish second in the Mountain West and the men’s team third.

With that optimism, though, not to mention the less-than-stellar ticket- sales issue going on across the street with football, comes some pressure and a hope from within the athletics department that plenty of fans will fill the seats this season to help the department’s bottom line.

On that front, there are mixed results so far.

The good news is the women’s basketball team as of this past weekend (not reflecting any sales that may have occurred on Monday), have sold 3,680 season tickets, up from 3,530 sold last season.

The program brought in about $90,000 more in ticket revenue than was projected over the past two seasons combined.

For men’s basketball, however, the department is trying to pin down how new initiatives in ticket sales will impact the overall sales for the season.

Lobo men’s basketball remains, by far, the largest revenue generator from ticket sales at UNM, bringing in $3.6 million in revenue last fiscal year compared to $881,095 for Lobo football and just under $396,782 for women’s basketball. In addition, the Lobo Club donation required for most men’s basketball season tickets last season generated roughly an additional $1.5 million that goes to the athletic department, not to the team specifically.

The team has sold just 8,193 season tickets this season, down from 8,724 last season, according to Dave Williams, UNM’s Deputy Athletic Director for External Affairs.

But the university is trying some new sales initiatives this season that it readily admits might put a dent in the season ticket figures.

First, the university is selling mini-plan packages this season that make available as many as 10 select games, with limitations on packaging together the most attractive games of the season, as opposed to just buying all 18 games. That was a result of surveying past ticket holders not renewing.

“We called as many as we possibly could and we charted it, we documented it to see why we had people who weren’t renewing,” Williams said. “The No. 1 reason was they couldn’t commit to a full season or, No. 2, price.”

The mini plans, he said, are what many other teams around the country have had success with in helping overall sales, even when season-ticket figures have dropped.

“We look at those as forms of season tickets,” Williams said. “Not many people can commit to a full 18 game season, so some people love to be able to pick 10 or five.”

But there has been frustration and some confusion among fans not entirely sure what the purpose of the mini-plan initiative was or frustrated that not every game is yet available for single-game purchases (the New Mexico State, Nevada and Utah State games won’t go on sale until after the season starts).

“We readily admit we need to communicate things better,” Williams said. “That’s where I think our problems definitely lie. We were more reactionary this year in developing the plan for season tickets than we will be in future years. In future years, we want this all laid out so our fan base can know (all the benefits of each option).”

For now, UNM will continue through this season without changes to the plans, but will consider changes for next season.

MOBILE PASS: Williams said there is a Mobile Pass season-ticket option UNM hasn’t done a good job of marketing. For $149, fans can have season tickets for the entire season, but won’t learn where their seat is located until they receive an email the night before each game. High-volume games will result in less-attractive seats while lower attended games could result in seats closer to the court, but there will be a seat reserved all season.

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