Monday, August 30, 1999
Ticket sales brisk,
but plenty go
Roughly 5 percent of AlohaBy Pat Bigold
Stadium seats will be complimentary
when the UH football team kicks
off its season Saturday
With the Rainbows' football team on an 18-game losing streak and attendance last season at a20-year low, you could make a sound argument for giving tickets away.
But with the advent of a new coaching staff, led by former NFL head coach June Jones and longtime college and NFL defensive whiz Greg McMackin, season ticket sales are on the upturn.
As of Friday, there were 22,000 sold -- 10 percent ahead of last year.
Once again, fans are finding it desirable to dish out $144 to see all the Rainbows' home games because Jones and McMackin have captured the football community's imagination.
University athletics officials are projecting a sellout for Saturday's season opener against Southern California.
It would be the first time Hawaii has sold out Aloha Stadium since BYU played the Rainbows here in September 1992.
But the university is still giving tickets away.
In fact, for this weekend's game, the giveaway total will be near 2,500.
Occupying those seats will be businesses that sponsor or trade services to the athletics program, individuals who volunteer their services to the program, Aloha Stadium licensees and sponsors, members of the athletics staff, the families of players and coaches, and a variety of other groups.
Hawaii associate athletic director Jim Donovan said there will be a review of these complimentary allocations in the case of a sellout. But season ticket commitments made to major university benefactors will be honored.
To some season ticket purchasers, the practice of giving away seats may be annoying, especially if the seats given away are in a section where the paying fan wanted to make extra purchases.
University officials say the wise allocation of complimentary tickets is good business practice. It's an NCAA-wide practice that they say perpetuates the financial health of athletics programs.
For example, KHNL pays $1.2 million for the rights to televise Rainbow football games and receives 136 complimentary tickets for each game.
"If we give 136 tickets to KHNL and they give us $1 million revenue for the year, does that make sense?" UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida asked.
"If you're investing in something, you need to get the feel of the operation."
There are 470 tickets given to businesses that are title sponsors or to companies that render services to the athletics program in general.
Of that number, 180 tickets go to companies that specifically benefit the football program with items such as equipment and clothing.
Title sponsors include Delta and Hawaiian airlines, and MetRx, which account for $100,000 in cash and trade.
About 100 tickets go to the car rental firms that provide in trade about 25 courtesy cars for members of the department's coaching staffs.
Hotels that provide in trade accommodations for recruits and bus companies that ferry teams to and from the airport get some of these tickets, as do broadcast media offering time spots for Rainbow events.
"We generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and trade in return for those seats," Donovan said.
One radio station gave $11,000 in air time for $1,500 worth of tickets.
"The trade is for items we'd like to have, but could not afford to buy in cash the last few years because of our budget situation," he said.
The largest chunk of free tickets allocated -- 478 -- goes to the players, who usually give them to family members or friends.
Football staff members get 102 tickets. The band and cheerleaders get 402.
"It takes 342 just to seat the band, and the rest go to people who support the band or cheerleaders," Donovan said.
The athletics department, as part of its contract with the stadium, hands over 76 tickets to stadium manager Eddie Hayashi.
Hayashi said he gives one to each of the nine stadium authority members and uses the rest on sponsors who advertise on the Jumbotron or to licensees.
He said sponsors who receive tickets include First Hawaiian Bank, GTE and Sprint. Hayashi said he also rewards licensees such as the NFL (Pro Bowl), the Oahu Interscholastic Association and the Hawaii High School Athletic Association.
There are 53 tickets given to about 23 individuals who serve as volunteers.
They donate or work as entertainers, help with university golf tournaments, work in the football office, or aid in other functions.
Rainbow Fever, a fund-raising effort by local supermarkets and food wholesalers, gets 38 tickets.
"Almost all of that goes to companies that are a part of the Rainbow Fever program," Donovan said. "There are different incentives for different companies signing up to be a part of Rainbow Fever. Most of that goes out to the retailers."
Donovan said Rainbow Fever has generated nearly $2 million since its inception.
Another 38 tickets go to nonprofit organizations as a way of helping them raise money for their causes.
This allocation of tickets is listed as "certificate winners," because the tickets go to winners in raffles or contests put on by organizations such as Aloha United Way, the UH Credit Union, the Honolulu Symphony, or the Kapiolani Sex Abuse Center.
The office of UH president Kenneth Mortimer gets 30 tickets.
Staff members in the athletics department are allocated about 60 and must pay taxes on their value.
Visiting teams get a good share of free tickets as well. Southern California, for instance, will get 250 for its spectators and another 250 for its band. Navy will get 400 when it plays here on Nov. 20.
The standard allocation for WAC teams is 300.
Teams coming in this year are asking high cash payout guarantees and make all of their own arrangements. Those payouts could range from $100,000 to $175,000.
"But other schools that are wealthier would concentrate more on getting tickets or accommodation upgrades than on total cash payout," Donovan said.
Notre Dame, which played here in 1995, demanded 5,000 complimentary tickets, the highest number ever issued by UH.
"But for Notre Dame our out-of-pocket expenses amounted to only about $60,000," Donovan said.
He said that a school like the Fighting Irish or schools from the Pac-10, Big 10 or Southeastern Conference can demand more from Hawaii because they are highly visible programs with drawing power.
"If we don't agree to what they want, they just won't come," Donovan said.
Legislators used to be given free tickets, but the university discontinued that practice a few years ago after a ethics questions were raised.
Nowadays, legislators must pay for their season tickets, but there is a block of 130 seats on the makai side of the stadium, about the level of the press box and nearer the end zone, exclusively set aside for purchase by legislators. Yoshida said they have until July 30 to buy.
He said there were only 10 or 15 tickets in the special section bought by legislators during the summer.
Daniel Mollway, executive director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, would not comment directly on the practice of holding seats for legislators.
But he did state the commission's philosophy regarding privileged treatment of government employees.
"I'm not talking about this case per se," said Mollway. "But as a general proposition, nobody gets a preferential opportunity to purchase something at a state property."
Mollway said there has to be a specific government purpose for giving any elected or appointed official preferred treatment.
"The legislators need to look at our program and pass judgment on it," Yoshida said.
Yoshida said tickets not purchased by legislators go on sale to the public unless they are needed to accommodate corporate sponsors or parties accompanying visiting teams. He could not say how many are sold to the public.
Players' families -- 478
Businesses -- 470
Band, cheerleaders -- 402
KHNL -- 136
Football staff -- 102
Aloha Stadium -- 76
Athletic department staff -- 60
Individuals -- 53
KCCN -- 52
Rainbow Fever -- 38
Certificate winners -- 38
President's office -- 30
Media -- 26
TOTAL -- 1,961
Tickets allotted to visiting teamsWAC teams -- 300
USC -- 500
Navy -- 400
Washington State -- 150
Ka Leo O Hawaii