Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal
Lobo basketball has been a hot ticket this season.
In fact, it’s been a hotter ticket than at any point in the past decade.
The Lobos, ranked No. 14 in the nation with a 23-4 record (10-2 in Mountain West Conference games), have already sold out the final two home games of this season – tonight vs. San Diego State and Saturday vs. Wyoming.
With those two capacity crowds of 15,411, the Lobos will have a season attendance for 16 home games of 240,351, or an average of 15,022 per home game. That will be the best average home attendance in the past decade and the first time the Pit has averaged better than 15,000 per home game since the 2002-03 season (15,186).
It also means that with 97.5 percent of the tickets to men’s games sold this season, UNM exceeded its lofty annual ticketing revenue projection of $4.3 million, according to Brad Hutchins, associate athletic director for marketing and revenue generation. The current projection for this year now is $4.4 million, but that may grow.
“It’s been a combination of factors, but primarily it’s about what coach (Steve) Alford and the basketball program has done,” Hutchins said. “It’s been a body of work. Since coach Alford has arrived, the excitement around the program has grown steadily, and now we’re back over that 15,000 mark for attendance. The basketball program and the fans have just been tremendous.”
UNM averaged 12,853 fans in the 2006-07 season, the season before Alford was hired.
“We’ve always been appreciative of our fans,” said Alford. “…There are numerous things that make Lobo basketball special, but without question at the top of that list are the best, most knowledgeable and loyal fans in the country.”
And Saturday’s win against Colorado State – especially Kendall Williams’ 46-point performance – propelled the team into the national spotlight, further fueling Lobomania.
Already, it appears that more than 3,200 Lobo fans have purchased all-session tickets to the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., March 12-16.
And on Tuesday afternoon, StubHub.com and Craigslist had tickets available for tonight’s San Diego State game selling for between $79 and $150 per ticket for lower bowl bench seating, tickets with face values from $17 to $35 when purchased from the UNM Ticket Office .
In November, UNM announced it had sold 11,069 season tickets, the third consecutive season the program broke the 11,000 mark for season tickets, according to Mark Koson, UNM’s associate athletic director in charge of ticketing.
In eight Mountain West games this season, including tonight’s and Saturday’s sellouts, UNM will average 15,389 fans per home league game, topped only by UNLV, which plays in the 18,577-capacity Thomas & Mack Center.
The $60 million Pit renovation completed before the 2010-11 season capped seating capacity in the facility at 15,411, down from more than 18,000 prior.
That includes some standing-room-only tickets at the club seat level.
UNM does have the option of selling another 2,000 standing-room-only tickets per home game around the concourse area.
But according to UNM athletic director Paul Krebs, the university has thus far chosen not to do so in an effort to keep the game experience – i.e., parking, concourse traffic, concession lines and restroom traffic – more enjoyable for those who have purchased seated tickets early for games. It is a decision he said could be revisited in the future.
Hutchins said the Pit renovations have allowed the university to enhance the game experience for fans in a variety of ways, from movement on the concourse level to more exciting player introductions and videos displayed during timeouts.
The Pit redo – with the addition of high-priced club seats and suites – also enabled the university to increase its ticket revenues.
Lobo fan support is also a boost for the Mountain West.
“I would tell you New Mexico is one of the strongest teams the Mountain West has in terms of fan support for the tournament,” said Dan Butterly, Mountain West senior associate commissioner. “… We even have several people who volunteer their time, taking time off work each year and come from Albuquerque to help us run the tournament.
“The fan support for New Mexico basketball is tremendous.”
The league anticipates plenty of Cherry and Silver in the Thomas & Mack stands this March when the Lobos play. In the past three seasons, the tournament has averaged 12,870 fans for men’s games, thanks in part to UNM fans doing more than their part to fill the stands.
This year should be no different.
Koson said the 3,200 tickets already sold to Lobo fans include:
⋄ The UNM Ticket Office’s entire allotment of 1,632 all-session tickets (the most by any school in the league this season, according to Koson).
⋄ 600 tickets purchased through the ticketing offices of other schools because UNM was already sold out, meaning those fans will be sitting in the designated seating sections of opposing teams,
⋄ 1,000-plus tickets purchased in general seating areas online at UNLVTickets.com. (The league tracks either area code or billing address.)
Single game ticket sales for the tournament go on sale at 1 p.m. Friday at UNLVTickets.com.
And UNM, as it stands now, will be the No. 1 men’s seed in the league tournament, which probably means even more tickets sold.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal