Sports Watch

Bill Kwon

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, March 25, 1999

Is it time to raise
UH ticket prices?

LOCATION, they say, is everything. It is, when you think about it. Not only in real estate. Rainbow pitchers, too, can sure use some location, finding the strike zone.

That same principle will be applied in getting priority-seating for University of Hawaii season tickets, if the athletic department's plans are approved.

UH will impose a surcharge for premium seats in men's basketball and both the men's and women's volleyball season-ticket packages, starting next fall.

Based partly on how that fares with the public, the university plans to scale the Aloha Stadium house for Rainbow football, starting in with the 2000 season.

UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida cited rising costs in college athletics for the priority-seating plan, which is practiced at the majority of the Western Athletic Conference schools.

Yoshida was questioned about the timing of the priority-fee plan.

After all, the Rainbow basketball team just finished a 6-20 season in which the no-shows among season-ticket holders averaged more than 2,500 a game.

Football? The Rainbows are coming off their worst two seasons in history -- 2-10 in 1997 and 0-12 last year. And, who knows what 1999 will be like as June Jones takes over as the new head coach?

Timing might be as equally important as location in this case. I mean, it's nice to pay for the privilege to sit at the captain's table for dinner. But what if the ship is the Titanic? Rest assured, the UH athletic program is sailing off into uncharted waters with the breakup of the WAC going into the new millennium.

Also, the good football ship Rainbow Warrior isn't exactly cruising at the moment. UH football's a tough sell right now, even with a new coach.

Business is all about supply and demand. And the demand's not exactly there right now. The biggest reason why the UH athletic department has suffered a $500,000 shortfall is because of a dramatic dropoff in football season-ticket sales from 31,000 in 1991 to 21,000 last year.

YOSHIDA admitted maybe the timing might not be the best. "But I don't see where it's ever going to be good," he said.

"Football wasn't a fun event the last two years. But I feel that if we compete hard, not be out of it by halftime like we were, I know the fans would support our team. With June coming aboard, football will be entertaining."

There will be some grumbling, but those with the preferred sideline seats at Aloha Stadium will pay to keep them. They represented practically most of the hard-core fans anyway. If they've kept their season tickets through thick and thin, they sure won't give them up because of a surcharge.

That, though, won't occur until next season.

For now, Yoshida is trying to get the arena events at Stan Sheriff Center in place.

Plans call for charging a premium price for midcourt tickets at the lower arena, also a steep price -- only corporations need apply -- for about 16 "Gucci" tickets at front row, center court for basketball.

Volleyball is a different animal. Center court might be up close and personal, but it's not really an ideal vantage point in terms of viewing the game.

But there's irony in considering priority-seating fee in volleyball. Nowhere but Hawaii is it a money-making sport in college. To me, UH should take the money and run, just being glad that it can produce income at all.

Enjoy the gravy, don't kill the goose or scramble its golden egg.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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