Virginia Tech Combats Football Ticket Sales Trends With Flexible Packages

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(Ivan Morozov)

Back on April 9th, Virginia Tech announced a slew of football ticket purchasing options that range from the traditional season ticket package to some pretty flexible and interesting options at affordable prices. You can view the article here, but I thought it was worth a closer look on as well.

Virginia Tech faces some serious challenges this year to selling football tickets. In addition to recent trends in television and college athletics that are suppressing ticket sales and attendance, Virginia Tech is hit with a double-whammy that only makes things worse: (1) the Hokies are coming off their first losing season since 1992 amidst a large amount of bad off-field news, and they were non-competitive in multiple games; (2) the 2019 home schedule is a snoozer. These factors are going to badly damage Virginia Tech football season ticket sales, and by extension Hokie Club donations.

The group of college friends that I’ve been tailgating with for years and who have been sitting together for years are opting out this season and will instead buy tickets on a per-game basis, via StubHub and other channels. I suspect a lot of fans are doing something similar.

Virginia Tech Drive for 25

Sponsored by the Drive for 25: The Hokie Club’s Drive for 25 is a campaign to increase membership in the Hokie Club to 25,000 members. No matter where you live, you can make an impact in the lives of Virginia Tech student-athletes! To learn more about the Drive for 25, click here.

Virginia Tech fans have been receiving their Hokie Club statements recently with their priority points rankings, and the number of ranked Hokie Club members (as of April each year) has declined in the last couple of years, but especially this year:

  • April 2017: 10,409 
  • April 2018: 10,155 
  • April 2019: 9,279 

Note: those numbers aren’t total Hokie Club members, just the subset of donors to the Hokie Scholarship Fund as ranked for football season ticket sales.

There’s no changing the outcome of the 2018 season and the 2019 schedule. The damage is done and will hurt Virginia Tech’s overall revenue and Hokie Club donations this year, but I suspect that next season, with Penn State, Miami, and Virginia coming to town, this one-year decline will reverse itself … provided the team doesn’t totally tank this year, which I don’t think it will.

The Response: Flexible Ticket Offerings

Virginia Tech’s response to flagging ticket sales is to offer some packages that I find interesting, fairly clever, and in some cases extremely flexible. Here’s a table summarizing the offerings and when they’ll be available.

2019 Virginia Tech Football Ticket Options
PlanCostOn SaleDescription
Season Ticket$400NowTickets for all 7 games, plus benefits
Season Mobile Pass$280NowFull season ticket package, seat locations vary
Build Your Own Mini-Plan$180July 10Pick any four games
10-Ticket Flex Package$400July 1010 tickets to any number of games, any combination
Fan 4-Packs$100/$160Aug 54 tickets for Furman ($100), Rhode Island ($100),
Duke ($160), or Wake Forest ($160)
Single-game Tickets$50/$70Aug 5$50 for non-conf. games, $70 for ACC games

That’s a large array of options, and we’ll break them down in a moment. I reached out to Virginia Tech Senior Associate AD for External Operations (including ticketing) Brad Wurthman via email and asked where the inspiration for all those options came from, and he said, “We’re working hard to stay very in-tune with ticketing trends we see on a national stage in professional sports, collegiate athletics, and live events. We’re continuing to explore the options that work best for our fans. We’ve offered mini-plan options over the last few years and offered 4-packs for one football game and a handful of basketball games last year with great responses for those options, which is why they’ve been expanded this year to additional football games.

“The national trends show that people attend live events for a variety of reasons and the reasons are more equally weighted than ever before, so we needed to find ways to cater to all of those needs.”

Breakdown by Offering

Here are more details on each offering, with my own personal rating on a scale of 1-5.

Remember, there are seven home games this season. “Per-game cost” refers to what is paid per ticket, per game.

Season Tickets, $400

  • Per-game cost: $57.15
  • Pros: Same seats every game, Hokie Club points, plus all the add-ons (see below)
  • Cons: Cost; Buying tickets for games you may not come to
  • Flexibility rating: 0 out of 5
  • Available: Now

The Drive for 25Details: The add-ons referred to above are a $25 concession voucher for each ticket purchased, Maroon & Orange Memories credits, discount to, complimentary men’s and women’s basketball tickets (based on availability, games TBD), Hokie Club priority points, and (as the VT promotional material says) … more!

Will’s Rating: 4 out of 5. If you’re the type who comes to every home game, and you’re a Hokie Club member and a big believer in supporting the program whole-hog, this is the way to go.  You can sleep soundly at night knowing that you’ve done everything to support the program, even though they weren’t very good in 2018 and the 2019 home schedule is poor.

Season Mobile Pass, $280

  • Per-game cost: $40
  • Pros: Cheaper than traditional season ticket, still gets you into all seven games
  • Cons: You sit in different seats each game (or maybe this is a pro; YMMV); no add-ons (see above)
  • Flexibility rating: 0 out of 5
  • Available: Now

Details: They call it “mobile” because it’s a ticket option through your phone (no physical tickets are sent), but in reality, your seats are what’s mobile. Your seats will always be together with this package, but you get moved around from game to game. Some people might actually like this, some might not.

Will’s Rating: 3 out of 5. I’m not a big fan of this offering, because it doesn’t come with any perks, and you get moved around. It sold out last year, though, so clearly many people like it.

Build Your Own (4-game) Mini-Plan, $180

  • Per-game cost: $45
  • Pros: It’s like a (much) cheaper mini-season ticket that lets you pick the four games you want to see, without being locked into purchasing all seven games.
  • Cons: Is your seat location the same from game to game? That’s not clear.
  • Flexibility rating: 4 out of 5
  • Available: July 10

Details: The details on this plan are scant, beyond “pick any four games for $180.” The devil may be in the details with regards to getting moved around, how you pick your seats, etc.

Will’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5. This is nearly a 4 out of 5. I love the lack of restrictions on the four games you can pick, but then again, it’s not like there’s a Notre Dame or a Miami on the schedule. This is a good alternative for the fans who are angry that Virginia Tech signed two FCS programs for the same season. Don’t like it? With this package, you don’t have to pay for (or go to) either game!

Flex Tickets, $400 (for 10 tickets)

  • Per-ticket cost: $40
  • Pros: A crazy amount of options and flexibility (see “Details” below)
  • Cons: Varying seat locations, lots of maintenance to pick per-game seats
  • Flexibility rating: 5 out of 5
  • Available: July 10

Details: It’s best to let the material do the talking here: “Tickets in the package may be used in any combination to attend home games in Blacksburg. For example, all 10 tickets to one home game, five tickets to two home games, etc. Tickets will be delivered in the form of digital vouchers in your online ticket account that may be redeemed online for actual game tickets (games based on availability). When redeeming tickets, fans will be able to choose their own seats based on availability. The minimum order is 10 tickets for $400, however additional tickets may be added at the time of order.”

Will’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5. This is a really cool concept with the ultimate in flexibility. There’s lots to like about it. However, it does require a lot of work to stay on top of it, pick your seats, adjust to varying seat locations, etc.

Fan 4-Packs, $100 or $160 (for 4 tickets)

  • Per-game cost: $25 (Furman and Rhode Island) or $40 (Wake Forest and Duke)
  • Pros: Cheap tickets, esp. for Furman and URI; take the whole family!
  • Cons: Not high profile games (but that’s not really the fault of the tickets themselves, is it?)
  • Flexibility rating: 2.5 out of 5
  • Available: August 5

Details: Pick four tickets for Furman ($100), Rhode Island ($100), Duke ($160) or Wake Forest ($160); additional tickets may be purchased at the same per-ticket price.

Will’s Rating: 3 out of 5. This is the old “family plan” offering, and any good ticket offering has this option as a staple. Those who are operating with a tight budget and are looking for ways to take the family (or guests) to a game may rate this higher than I do.

Single-game tickets, $50 or $70

  • Per-game cost: $50 for non-conf. games, $70 for ACC games
  • Pros: Pick only the games you want to see, from one game to all seven
  • Cons: Costlier than buying season tickets or the plans above
  • Flexibility rating: 5 out of 5
  • Available: August 5

Details: It’s pretty cut-and-dried. Any remaining tickets after the season ticket offerings and July 5 offerings will be made available as single-game tickets for purchase beginning August 5.

Will’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5. It is what it is, a chance to pick and choose games, but not at a discount. From 1999-2012, this option didn’t even exist, but with season tickets no longer selling out, single-game sales have returned. I’ll bet that buying off of StubHub will be cheaper, though.

Closing Thoughts on Ticket Sales

As I said in the opening, there isn’t much Virginia Tech can do to combat declining ticket sales this year, but I like what they’ve done here with the options they’re providing for fans. I can only imagine that this many options puts a strain on the logistics of the ticketing operation. If they can properly service these options, it’ll make fans happy and bring in much-needed revenue.

Brad Wurthman wouldn’t put exact numbers on how many season tickets the Hokies have sold thus far, but in the end, he thinks total ticket sales will end up being about the same as in recent years. “We’ve remained fairly static for the last five years,” he said, “hovering anywhere between 28,000 and 32,000 season tickets sold, depending on the year. We anticipate being right in that mix again in August when the season begins.

“Our story is that we were sold out with season tickets for 15 years, and now we aren’t. Without context, that sounds bad. With context, that’s a similar trend for many programs across the country. Honestly, that’s not necessarily a bad scenario. Being sold out creates the benefit of difficult-to-get-tickets. The problem in that scenario is being unable to bring people into Lane for the first time. Not being sold out creates the benefit of finding creative ways to get people inside Lane. The challenge is finding unique ways to add value to a variety of ticket packages.

“It’s too early in the process to tell where we’ll eventually end up this season. With that said, I’m very encouraged by our trend line and how we’re transforming the process of how our stadium gets sold out. The assumption, sometimes, is that sold out means we sold 66,000 season tickets, but really, it’s a function of ‘what is available to be sold as a season ticket’ after we account for so many variables. Getting to a comfortable level within that capacity is the key to everything we have to work on, and why we spend so much time working on it.”


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36 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I wonder if any American sports team will ever handle their season tickets like European soccer does. In order to be able to buy tickets to the more prestigious games (Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, etc) you not only have to be a season ticket holder but you have to actually ATTEND THE GAMES. Additionally, your name is on the ticket so they aren’t transferrable (this is the single biggest reason why it will never work in America). I for one would love it. If buying season tickets and going to the games was the only way to get tickets for the bowl game / playoff you’re damn sure you would see an increase in season ticket sales and attendance.

  2. What bothers me is that when I buy my season tickets and cannot attend a game, I have to always sell them for less than they cost me because people can go straight through Tech and get them cheaper. Really hurts when quantities of tickets are dumped on Stub Hub for almost nothing.

  3. After 53 years of purchasing consecutive season tickets, I am not buying tickets this year. It was a great run, but television coverage is good, and a lot cheaper.

  4. Will, you whiffed on the flexibility of the Season Mobile Pass. See the details here:

    – If you can’t make it to a game, you can return tickets for credit that can be used for guest tickets or seat upgrades
    – “Sit with friends” allows you to link to another Mobile Pass user and sit with them for one or multiple games
    – You can buy guest tickets through your Mobile Pass account and seats will be together for that game, provided you purchase the tickets more than 48 hours before the game

    In my case, I have a 6 year old who likes going to afternoon games, but can’t cut it for night games. Do I buy two season tickets or three? Last year we did two, and bought an extra for the games she went to, then tried to cram her in – not great. If we had three tickets, it’s tough to get rid of a single – then I’m eating the cost of the extra ticket plus the babysitter for night games. The Mobile Pass lets me get two tickets to every game, swap those out for games I can’t go to, and get a third ticket for those I need an extra for really easily. Plus, my money goes directly to VT instead of StubHub. It’s a perfect option for me this season, in theory, though we’ll see how it works in reality.

  5. Based on the comments to this article and those regularly scattered throughout the boards it appears that a segment of the VT fan base is just now awakening from their multi-decade slumber and seeing big time college athletics for what it is, and actually has been for quite some time. You’ve been lulled to complacency as the college sports dynamic has evolved all around you, buffeted by the fact that VT was late to the game (ACC membership) and even later to adapt to the financial realities.

  6. Thanks Will for a well written article that will be filed under “The problem that’s not the problem”.

    Now if you can direct me to the article on Tech’s new power running game or a missive on the D’s renewed ability to lay the lumber like a Lowes truck I think I can ferret out the problem with our ticket sales.

  7. Anyone remember what happened to DSU when they screwed their long time ticket holder? Can you say “empty stadium“? As one who is no longer buying season tickets (after 20 years, about 15 as GH)… health reasons primarily, but not wholly … I do feel that VT has really begun to nickel and dime everything… example 1, no more hard frame chair backs, ok buy soft back, no more soft back, screw you … example 2, parking price up and up … example 3, per seat zone pricing, jeez … example 4, maroon out, awesome, orange out, um ok, white out? Wtf? Why are we creating non team color days? I’m sure there are more, but that’s off the top of my head. I’ll miss the atmosphere of the big games, but for those crappy games, I’ll enjoy 8 hours of seeing other real games instead of sitting in traffic. Lastly, the 2019 schedule was the last straw, after the first 2018 game, I knew it was going to b hard for me to get from parking lot to stadium and the season was likely my last, looking at the schedule sealed the deal (even with Ecu vs Rhode Island)

  8. What true blue Hokies you are …

    “The group of college friends that I’ve been tailgating with for years and who have been sitting together for years are opting out this season and will instead buy tickets on a per-game basis, via StubHub and other channels. I suspect a lot of fans are doing something similar.”

    1. p.s., Will Stewart. Are you saying that you and your friend’s interest is waning? If that is becoming the general feeling among other fans, perhaps it will affect your product’s bottom line, i.e., TechSideline.

      I do not expect for you and Chris to become cheerleaders but I have often felt that your compass points towards the negative view point. Like most Tech people that I have known in my life.

      I am a big believer in the power of positive thinking and becoming what you resolve to be!

      1. It’s complicated to explain, but I was (am?) in a group of about 12-16 season tickets that were purchased via the 2-3 highest-level donors in our group. That situation is hard to manage, because it requires a lot of coordination — 12-16 tickets purchased through 2-3 people.

        When the 2018 season went 6-7 and the 2019 home schedule went with 2 FCS teams, the group as a whole decided to dissolve for this year. I think they’ll reconvene next year.

        Me personally, I will buy tickets. Not sure how many or where. I was thinking about two SEZ club seats, but that would close about $2,300 all-in. Now I see the options listed in this article, and I’m not sure I’m going to pony up the $2,300 — I might go other routes.

  9. This new ticketing strategy could result in reduced revenue. Folks who used to buy season tickets now opt for less expensive route. If you do not replace that season ticket holder you just lost money.

    And remember this, if you want to compete with the big boys, you have to contribute more. We are in the middle to lower end of sports revenue in ACC. How can Clemson afford to pay Dabo 3 times as much as Fu? Their revenue greatly exceeds ours.

  10. I am befuddled by many of these comments. “Loyalty not recognized”, “terrible customer service”, “being taken for granted”, “kicked to the curb”, and my favorite – “told what horrible people we were”. What is it, exactly, that you people want? I’ve been giving at the Silver level for 15ish years. I pay my money – I get my tickets. That’s pretty much all I need. Maybe if I was giving at the level where I was in the luxury boxes, I would expect some sort of quality of service – but I have no idea what’s expected at that level. I mean, yeah, I guess I would be ticked off if someone from the Hokie Club or Athletic Department told me I was a horrible person…but something tells me there is some hyperbole in that claim.

    So, again – what is it that you want? Why are you feeling kicked to the curb? Be specific. Because I am always astonished at these types of statements.

    1. Good point. I think truthfully the fact is that a lot of fans are having a hard time understanding the new reality of college football. That you’re going to have to pay more to keep your seats and your parking places. That simply because you’ve had them for a long time doesn’t mean you get to keep them. In a competitive environment like college football where money is everything, the university is going to ask for more money. Yes it’s sad , But it’s also a very harsh reality. I know of a number of people who have given money to the university and lost their seats because people have donated more money. That’s harsh but that’s the way the game works. I wish there was a better way.

      1. In my case this has nothing to do with the harsh reality of other people giving more money. I have been moving UP in the rankings in the last few years in the Golden Hokie level. My problem with some of these packages (as I understand them) like the Season Mobile Pass for example is that someone who has given $100 to the HC (or maybe $0) can now access tickets to all games at a lower cost ($120 per ticket lower – I have 4) and the only downside is their seats move around and they don’t get points for them (that tremendous one point per ticket they will credit me)? I ponied up well over the $2500 for seats and parking BUT I was never offered this deal before I committed to my donations and season tickets. And then you have the 4-game plan where the same $100 donor can cherry pick the 4 best games while the regular season ticket holders subsidize everybody with all the rest of the less desirable games?

        No question what I will be doing next year. I’ll gladly move about the stadium for some different perspectives on the action. Fool me once…

        1. So you’re angry that these other ticket options came out after season ticket holders had to commit? That’s the gist of things?

          1. Yes, that’s a big part of it. I probably would have made a different purchasing decision and saved a bunch of money. The best idea I have seen is what The_Phew suggested below which would have been to offer these packages based on priority points along with regular season ticket sales instead of taking advantage of the regular season ticket holders and then offering this after the fact.

    2. Let’s face it, VT’s sports-raising philosophy has been transactional for decades, like most other universities. It’s a quid pro quo. In return for x amount of donation, you get this. Whit didn’t invent the system, he simply quantified it. I understand it, and accept it (not that I have any other choice). However, individual donors have made individual decisions based on the rules of the transaction (what’s the quo for my quid). Whit, the AthDept, HC, etc., can not not complain or cry foul over donors making personal decisions based upon the transaction (if I’m not receiving something of value commensurate with my donation, I can choose to lower my donation to a level I feel is appropriate). Laying guilt trips, or questioning my “Hokieness level” because I’m evaluating my options to only pay what I expect to get in return, is me treating the transactional system in the same manner they have been doing for decades. In short, produce a better product, and I’ll pay more (donate more). Rhetorically, how is it unfair to analyze the transaction in the same manner the AthDept has been doing for decades?
      The AthDept made the decision to implement premiums, which was probably a good decision in the short term. However, if by doing that the AthDept alienated a segment of donors to the point that the donors felt unappreciated, and starting withholding/reducing donations and ticket purchases, then the long term effects of the premiums may be counter productive. And, the younger donors, who the AthDept expected to fill the loss of the moneyed donors, hasn’t materialized, and probably won’t. The TILI mentality has had repercussions. They need to deal with it. A mea culpa might be appropriate before you bad mouth and question the loyalties of long time, moneyed donors.

      1. Honestly, this is a lot of words that still tell me next to nothing about WHY you’re feeling so alienated by the Athletic Department. Is this the key line – ” In short, produce a better product, and I’ll pay more (donate more).”? By “better product”, do you mean “win more games”? And if that’s not it – then, what – specifically – would create a “better product”? Who is laying guilt trips or “questioning your Hokie level”? The athletic department?

        You mention the premiums. Is that the crux of the situation? I don’t know how many people that affected. I didn’t change my giving at all, and kept my same seats.

        1. By better product, I mean better schedules, more wins, and better customer service. With the increases in total cost, would should expect better customer service.
          For MBB, corporate entities pick before any else, yet we were lead to believe that the HC ranking actually reflected when you pick.
          The HC did a bait and switch after years of promises, then said take it or leave it (thus my name for Lansden as TILI). As far as a better product, I would consider better service to be acknowledging the transactional systems the AthDept devises, instead of extorting giving.
          As far as the “guilt trip,” it actually occurs on here. I often wonder if the guilt laid by some is inversely proportional to one’s donations, i.e., the less they give, the more they try to lay on guilt to others who are reducing giving and ticket purchases for trying to participate in the transactional system as an equal.

    3. O&M giving level for years. Sat in same seats, west side, close to end zone, with same seat neighbors for years. Watched kids around us grow up. Was fun going to games even when the team wasn’t always great. Administration more or less promised that if you were loyal they would be loyal to you. Team got better. Bandwagon fans jumped on and reseating started. As a family we had to make a financial decision. Give even more money to Hokie Club just to keep our seats? Decided no. Kept giving at same level. Seats keep getting worse. Gave up paying for parking when lot was closer to Pembroke than the stadium.
      Wife works with several doctors and nearly all were season ticket holders for a while. Gave big bucks and got those good seats. Very few are anymore. Moved on the the next thing, whatever that is.
      The administration made a decision to chase the bucks and forgot that whoever can buy you can also sell you. The bandwagon looks pretty thin now doesn’t it?
      Still a loyal Hokie but it’s not the same.

  11. Looks as if the powers that be are not having the success they envisioned when they made their revisions and decided not to honor their agreements. I love VT but made the decision at that time that there are plenty of other things to do other than go to Blacksburg.

    Oddly enough, we are saving money and enjoying it more. People don’t always “Take a year off,” and then return. The Drive For 25 appears to have taken a dive. Too bad. We won’t lose any sleep over it.

    For those who want to make a negative comment about not doing my part, understand that my first game was in 1948 and we didn’t take “Years off” until we were told what horrible people we were; awful people who had not done what we should for years. Tens of thousands in contributions with more in the bank awaiting someone to ask ended permanently.

    Oddly enough, we had done exactly what we were encouraged to do by the Hokie Club.

    Hope they sell out every game. We will be fishing instead. Nice article Will.

  12. Hokie Club member and season ticket holder for nearly 30 years and have felt “kicked to the curb” many times over the years. When the team is good the big $ donors roll in and push us out to the fringes. When the program faces a little adversity they move on to the next shiny thing. Loyalty is only rewarded when the team not good.

  13. As a 25+year donor and season ticket holder, much of that at the GH level, these options do nothing to make me want to continue in the same manner. Like the Hokie Club, we too as donors have to make adjustments and evaluate the value proposition. If you are not picky about your seats, why wouldn’t you just take advantage of one of these where you can cherry pick the best games?

    1. The Hokie Club is LONG past due for an adjustment, refresh, re-brand, something IMO. It’s a corpse. Just wait when the construction projects begin on I-81 to widen and fix the worst interstate in VA and one of the worst in the Nation! Will make a lot of us think 2,3, 4 or more times if we really want to drive back and forth to VT etc…

      1. And as someone who makes the trip from the east side of the Wash. DC area, I can assure you that too will factor into my future plans and those of others in the area. They are making it way to hard on the long term substantial supporters…feel like I am being taken for granted. That kind of attitude eventually loses you that base support you have grown too reliant on.

  14. this is like the golf courses that offer discounted rates to attract new members but nothing for the steady ones- short term solution that does nothing. They are paying for their terrible customer service when times were good

  15. All of these options are ‘non-priority’ for Hokie Club members, right? i.e. seat location is random/first-come/whatever?

    I’d like reduced-price ticket packages for Hokie Club members that uses your priority ranking to assign seat location, for folks like me that donate but don’t buy season tickets. Basically a way to offer these unsold tickets at a discount to Hokie Club members prior to the general public. I still feel like I’m better off buying tickets on the secondary market for the games I’d like to attend than any of the options offered by the VT ticket office.

  16. Do we still get the allotted time to ‘pick a seat’??? {Season ticket holder}

    Forth 1st time in years, I have yet to be sent an e-mail with a specific time by priority to look for open seats and PP assignment.

  17. Sometimes you remember where you came from. Decades of existing, faithful and loyal Hokies who had season tickets through the good and bad, but always supported VT. When their loyalty was not recognized, this problem could be seen coming from a mile away. Is it time to do away with the additional add on’s and go back to sell outs and waiting lists? Certainly reasonable in my opinion.

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