Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tickets please! A comparative analysis of Rebel basketball ticket prices

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels basketball at the Thomas and Mack Center – often called the greatest show on the strip, and the only one that will never end its run. Being a fan of our beloved Rebels will cost you $0, but game attendance is another matter.

It is important to compare and evaluate what the price of admission to a game at the Thomas and Mack Center is, not necessarily to criticize – but to put things in perspective.

Before talking about dollars and cents, the spectacle and event of going to a Runnin’ Rebels game is something that can’t be quantified by money. The Thomas and Mack area supplanted the UNLV Men’s Basketball team playing at the convention center. The facility opened in 1983, and has since been renovated both inside and out. Before every game the lights are dimmed, a spectacle is created with pyrotechnics, music, and the red carpet. And once the players are introduced, hopefully the Rebels are off to victory in thrilling fashion. Sure, you could watch it on TV, but you would miss the introductory spectacle, the half-time show, and the experience of being there.
The same questions are asked every year of a team people have high hopes for – will UNLV return to the Final Four? Will the three point-streak stay intact? The answer to those questions really rest with the coaches and players. The questions the fans have to answer are “Am I going to renew, upgrade, or downgrade my seats this year”?, or to the non-season ticket holder – how many games am I going to attend, or will I attend games.

A large crowd is part of what makes going to a game at the Thomas and Mack Center fun. Without a large crowd, the cheering is not as loud, the fight song loses some of its meaning, and the energy is decreased. Teams are given home-home-advantages because it's their fanbase and their facilities.  Luckily for the Rebels, attendance numbers have not been the problem. In a city with much more to see and do than anywhere outside of New York or Los Angeles, UNLV regularly does as well as any event in town. While UNLV had previously been an attendance leader not only in the Mountain West, but in the West in general, sadly that title has fallen.
The NCAA has recently released its numbers for the past seasons attendance, and in the top 10 is BYU averaging 18,714 people per home game ranking 6th, sandwiched between Tennessee and Wisconsin. The top attendance school is Kentucky, which averaged 23,603 per home game in 2010-11. Looking at the Mountain West alone, 4 teams cracked the Top-30.

In descending order, here’s how things breakdown:

(1 ;6th Nat’l;) BYU with 18,714;
(2 ;16th Nat’l;) New Mexico with 14,570 per game;
(3 ;23rd Nat’l;) UNLV with 13,253; and
(4 ;30th Nat’l;) San Diego State with 11,668 per game.

Space limitations certainly hampered San Diego State University’s attendance figures as they pushed the limits of their facilities time and time again this past season (capacity is 12,414). Most impressive among the bunch is New Mexico besting UNLV by more than 1000, given that New Mexico was not seriously in contention for a shot at the big dance, their most meaningful accomplishment was having “newcomer of the year” in Drew Gordon, and beating BYU twice (one time w/o Davies).

Back to the money, here is how UNLV Basketball ticket prices stack up to the competition in the MWC, one prominent team, and an NBA franchise.

Booster funds

Most collegiate programs carry a booster fund, which uses donations from fans to fund scholarships, facilities, and other things. Programs have tied these booster programs to the ability to purchase choice seating at basketball and football games, among other sports.

University athletic budgets take a lot of money to keep the scholarships funded, here is several nice charts provided by Wyoming about the MWC.

While UNLV is middle-of-the-pack when it comes to the ability to raise money, the most interesting statistic in these graphs is that we are DEAD-LAST in number of contributors to the fund. Clearly, there is room for improvement in that department. Perhaps that should be a topic of inquiry in a future article.

What do UNLV Runnin’ Rebels tickets cost?

The UNLV website does an OK job of giving a breakdown of costs, but you have to do some math to get true figures. The more ‘premium’ seats require a donation to the Rebel Athletic Fund, a fund that pays for scholarships for many of the athletes that play college sports at UNLV. Since there’s some addition and then division, I’ll do the math for you after we talk about single game tickets:

Single game tickets:
UNLV has tiered tickets into bad teams, ok teams, and great teams. For example, here is bad and great:
Vs. bad teams,
aka Wyoming
Plaza $103, $87, $35
Dugout $22
Balcony $10
Endzone Balcony $10

Vs. great teams
Wisconsin; BYU
Plaza $103, $87, $38
Dugout $25
Balcony $20
Endzone Balcony $20

Some are not too expensive -- if you can land decent seats. Many/most of those are in the hands of season ticket holders. 

On "Pack the Mack" days (usually 1-2 a season) there is quite a few $10 tickets available. Usually a free shirt promotion as well - good time to go.

Rebel Kids Club
Rebel Kids club is an incentive where for each child a year membership is $30 per year per kid. Members (the children) get free admission to any UNLV sporting event (minus ultra-premium matchups like Wisconsin).  Along with that privilige, comes up to 4 half-price adult admissions. Additional benefits are Rebel Kids Club events, a t-shirt, and a birthday card from Hey Reb! on your child's birthday. I am not familar with the program other than this information, if anyone has used it I'd love to know what kind of seats you got. Other considerations - this sounds like a "yearly" program, and we all know the college basketball season straddles 2 years through the winter months. SO, it is likely the shell-out would be $60 to see a season (but you would still get the following fall, so that's cool).

Student Tickets
Additionally, as is the norm, if you are a student you are eligible for free admission to all home games (not the MWC tournament). You must be a student with an active classes, and you have to go through the website and use your Rebelcard to 'buy' your free tickets. This is a policy change from years past, where all you had to do is show up at the T&M with a Rebelcard and your in. Plus side to student section - good seats, high energy, downside - there won't be a ton of sitting unless its a blowout. 

Season Tickets
-          Includes all exhibition and home games, does not include neutral site games played at The Orleans when the NFR is in town.
-          Quoted prices do not include RAF required contribution in some cases

The only real price there are the $175 and $90 endzone balcony tickets, others mostly require RAF donations. 

Because of the required RAF donation, which granted is a tax deductible charitable donation, here is the real cost of season tickets at UNLV.

Season                                                                                                Per game breakdown
Plaza – Courtside (Gucci Row)$3000+ $485= $3485                        $205
Plaza – Close to court sidelines $1650 +$485 = $2135                      $125
Plaza – Close to court endzones $1025 +$485 = $1510                     $89
Plaza – Mid level mid court $775+$485 = $1260                               $74
Plaza – Mid level corners $525 + 485 = $1010                                  $59
Plaza – High corners  $275 + 485 = $760                                          $43
Dugout selected or $295+$275 = $570                                              $33
Plaza – Endzone above the tunnel $175+$485 = $660                        $39
Dugout – Non-mid-court $100 +$295 = $395                                   $23
Limited no. of plaza non-RAF endzone = $485                                   $28
Balcony Non-endzone = $175                                                            $10
Balcony endzone $90                                                                         $5.29

Additionally, while some of these prices look less daunting when pieced out into single games, many of the RAF seats are unavailable to purchase under single game prices.

UNLV vs. local sporting events

There are sports in Las Vegas, minor league or alternative league sports. The prominent competiton are AA – Las Vegas 51s and Wranglers Hockey (sorry Locos, no time to evaluate your team).

The Las Vegas 51’s 72 home game season ticket package


Season Ticket Prices
Dugout Seats
Field Level
Plaza Seating
Reserved Seating

The math dividing those dollar figures gives you a per-game figure of

Dugout = $13/per game
Field = $8 per game
Plaza = $7 per game
Reserved = $6 per game

Want to buy single games, here are the prices

Dugout = N/A
Field = $14 per game
Plaza = $13 per game
Reserved = $10 per game

They also offer many great mini-plans to entice people who want to see more than a few games, but know an entire season is too big of a commitment. Added bonus -- fireworks shows periodically occur and are worth the price of admission.
Comparison: 51s baseball is cheaper, but less exciting and lets face it -- its minor league baseball.

Las Vegas Wranglers ECHL Hockey

Season Tickets
Glass - $999
Select Circle - $799-  Youth $216
Premium - $599 Youth - $216
Mardi Gras - $499 Youth - $216

Very nice of the Wranglers to give a youth discount, classy. I couldn’t figure out how many home games the Wranglers play but the following is their single game ticket prices:

Single game prices
Glass $38.00
Select Circle $28.50
Premium $21.00
Mardi Gras$17.50
Youth -$10.50

Comparison: Good idea with the youth pricing, really makes this a family outing. Although not the NHL this can be great entertainment for a good price. Still lacks the sense of urgency due to it being somewhat of a minor league. Less expensive than UNLV basketball, if you are a hockey fan go watch!

UNLV vs. Shows

Not a fair comparison, you wouldn’t go see the same show 17 times in a row, unless you might be a rabid Cher, Manalow, or Santana fan. A front row ticket to the best shows are known to run $300-500 a pop. Besides, there’s no winner or losers – what’s the fun in that?

UNLV vs. the MWC

 The data that goes into this chart follows, but essentially this is a breakdown of UNLV vs Several MWC teams in terms of season ticket pricing. The blue line represents all ticket prices added together divided by their number, giving an 'average' ticket price. The red line represents taking out of the equasion the courtside ultra-expensive tickets and then comparing the numbers again.

There is no perfect way to really compare one program's ticket prices vs. another, but without really doing a ton of analytics on each venue, these numbers are interesting for several reasons that I will talk about in the indiviudal team sections.

Let’s take a look at the competition:


Season Packages
Note: Includes 18 home games and all lower level seats require a Cowboy Joe Club donation.
Public Reserved          $176.00
UW Faculty/Staff Reserved (Limit two)        $146.00
Family Plan (4 @ $94)
Sections A1, A2 and E1 only - two adults, two children       $376.00
Courtside        $400.00

Adding the “Cowboy Joe” required contribution here’s the real cost of season ticket membership:

Season (18 home games)                                                                     Per Game
Courtside = $400+$5000 = $5400                                                      $300
Premium (mid-court lowers) = $176 +$750 = $926                             $51
Premium (mid-court higher-low) $176 + $500 = $676                         $37
Scholarship (end-zone mid) $176 +$250 = $426                                 $27
Scholarship (end-zone high) $176 +$125 = $301                                 $17
Cowboy Joe (best 2nd level) $176+$100 = $276                                 $15
General = $176                                                                                    $10

Single Game Tickets
 Public         Youth (3-18)       Faculty / Staff     Student Guest
All Home Games        $16.00            $8.00                $12.00                $10.00

Additionally, Wyoming has put together mini-plans such as the “Cowboy Weekender” which allows people to purchase all the Saturday home games (8 of them) for a reduced price. That, with the family pack and reduced youth prices – good deals. The only anomaly here is the extremely high price for courtside season tickets. I believe there are two reasons behind this 1) They have less available top-tier seating than most teams, so its supply vs demand; 2) There is a lot of oil and gas money in Wyoming – those guys have to spend it somewhere. Plus, there is literally nothing else to do in Wyoming, except ski in Jackson Hole. Wyoming on the whole (minus the oil price'd ticket) is affordible and makes many accomoditations to families and those not willing to go the distance on a season ticket plan. Most of their tickets are less expensive than UNLV's.

BYU (leaving the MWC)
Season Tickets (* = requires Cougar Club donation)
Prime Lower Chair      $337/$269*
Lower Chair(sec 1-5, 13-17 row 25 & higher)            $269
Prime Upper Chair      $142
Upper Chair    $95
Upper Bench   $75
BYU Faculty/Staff     $149
* = cougar club payment; Bronze = $200

BYU’s website does not specifically say what level of donations equal what seating level, but their plans are similarly tiers to other universities. That said, It appears on the whole BYU tickets are cheaper, and there is the added benefit that because these programs, such as the Cougar Club translate to all sports, you get great seats for a usually great football team.

Subtracting the hard to compare Cougar Club seating, we get the following comparable numbers. Note, some of the seating is long benches rather than stadium chairs.
BYU also offers mini-packages, and assigns priority to buy those packages based upon level of Cougar Club giving as well.

Air Force

Going to an Air Force Falcons game at Clune arena presents on of the best values in the land. Here is the pricing structure:

Season Tickets                                    Single game breakdown
Courtside VIP $600*                          $33
Center Court Club $305*                   $17
Lower Level $180                               $10
Upper Courtside $155                        $9
Lower Baseline $115                          $6
- Family 4 pack $325                         $4.50 per pers
Upper Baseline $100                           $5.50
- Family 4 Pack $245                         $3.40 per person
  • Courtside VIP and Center Court Club seats include $75 per season ticket in retail value stored in the barcode on each ticket.  The retail value can be used at all AFAAA concession and retail locations as well as select vendors inside Clune Arena.  The value can be used throughout the men’s basketball season.  Stored value expires at the conclusion of the regular season. 

This is a ridiculously good deal, even if you aren’t a fan of Air Force’s brand of basketball. The Air Force has two booster clubs, the ‘Blue and Silver club’ and ‘Falcon Pride’ but appears seat priority only is applicable to the football games, so you needant donate to get the better seats for basketball.
How is this possible? The Air Force is funded by the federal government. All students have free tuition in exchange for military service after graduation. Therefore, there is no need for boosters to fund scholarships because there isn’t any. Additionally, there is no real need for the Air Force academy to make a profit on their athletics, therefore there is likely very little profit margin, if any, on the tickets. This may be one of the least expensive tickets in all of college basketball - any they usually aren't terrible either. Clearly, less expensive than UNLV.

Colorado State University

Values galore are available to watch the Rams play. However, I could not obtain specific season ticket information.

Here are some examples of single game ticket prices:

New Mexico (Orange Out & Premium game)           
Saturday, Feb. 12        7:00 PM          Adult Reserved - $15 Youth - $8      

UNLV (Premium game)
Saturday, Feb. 19        5:00 PM          Adult Reserved - $15 Youth - $8   
Wednesday, March 2  7:00 PM          Adult Reserved - $12 Youth - $8      

Rams Club seating gives better seats, dontation level start at $100. Specifically, I found that to get courtside seating, whatever the seats cost + a $2000 donation is required.

CSU offers many other flexible ways to enjoy the Rams games:

Pepsi 4-Packs are back! For the following home games: Drake, Air Force, San Diego Utah receive the following for only $32:
•           4 tickets
•           4 sodas
•           4 hot dogs
Pepsi 4-Packs are available for the NEW! Ram Club Mountain West Plan (only available to Rams Club Members)
•           Receive tickets to four marquee Mountain West Conference home games for $52.
•           Plan includes two premium home games: Jan. 15 vs. TCU, Jan. 22 vs. BYU, Feb. 2 vs. San Diego State and Feb. 12 vs. New Mexico.

Pick 6 Plans
Fans can receive tickets to six games of their choice* for one low price of $60, that's $10 a game!
•           *A limit of two premium games can be chosen as part of the six game selections.
•           Seats are located in the non-premium seating areas (non-Ram Club areas).

Colorado State has an unusual venue for basketball, and their pricing is designed to bring people into the stadium and root for the team. As we all remember, those crowds were particularly loud rooting on their tourney-hopeful team that fell short. Hard to say what the real numbers are without the season ticket data, but I would predict it is less expensive than UNLV.
University of New Mexico

Although New Mexico’s seating plan is much more chaotic than UNLV’s, its worth breaking down because they bested us this year in attendance.

First the single game pricing:

2010-11 Men's Basketball Single Game Ticket Pricing
Adult/Youth   Seats   Single  Single - Premium Games (Arizona State, NMSU, BYU, Utah; UNLV)
            Benches (rows 1-10)  $15 Adult/$10 Youth $17 Adult/$14 Youth
            Benches (rows 11-25)            $20      $24
            Benches (rows 26-33)            $26      $31
            Benches (rows 34-45)            $29      $35

Doing the math
Season tickets                         Per game breakdown
Row 1 - $3075                        $171
Rows 2-4 -$2865                    $159

Chairbacks Sec C-G
Rows 22-32 - $1826               $101
Rows 20-21- $1772                $98
Rows 11-19 - $1522               $85
Row 10 - $1432                      $79
Rows 5-9 $932                        $52

Chairbacks (A-B)
Rows 30-34 $1826                  $101
Rows 26-29 $1576                  $88
Rows 22-25 $1326                  $74
Rows 20-21 $1272                  $71
Rows 11-19 $1022                  $57
Row 10 $932                          $52
Rows 5-9 $682                        $38

Benches (Sec H-Q, U-Z)
Rows 41-45 $1468                  $82
Rows 36-40 $1218                  $68
Rows 34-35 $968                    $54
Rows 26-33 $896                    $50
Rows 21-25 $574                    $32
Rows 16-20 $424                    $24
Rows 11-15 $324                    $18
Rows 1-10 $252                      $14
Benches (Sec R-T)
Rows 34-38 $1468                  $82
Rows 30-33 $1396                  $78
Rows 26-30 $1146                  $64
Rows 21-25 $824                    $46
Rows 16-20 $574                    $32
Rows 11-15 $424                    $24
Row 10 $352                          $20
Rows 1-9 $252                        $14

I told you it is archaic! So many different potential prices for season tickets!

As you can see by the graph, once you subtract the high-dollar courtside tickets, you still have some darn expensive ticket prices - the highest in the MWC. Likely, though that many do not buy season tickets and opt for the per-game option. Normally you would expect to see steep discounts between per game season tickets and piecemeal tickets -- I'm not seeing it here.

Comparison: New Mexico is more expensive, and has more attendance. I have no idea why this is but it is not a good thing for UNLV.

San Diego State University

Season Tickets (only 16 games last year)     Per game breakdown
Courtside $3000                                             $188
Low mid-court $916                                       $57
Mid mid-court $615                                        $38
More mid and endzone $465                          $29
Endzone mid $255                                          $16
Enzone and corners mid $205                         $13
Reserved high seating $109                            $7
General admission (high) $99                         $6.18

Single game tickets are represented in this graphic.
SDSU is right on par with UNLV for the overall average price, but is slightly cheaper excluding the front row price. The Aztecs have a lot of competition from other activities in San Diego - Chargers, Padres, and USD. They lack youth pricing as well, and are hampered by a smallish venue.
Comparison: Tied with UNLV

UNLV vs.other big time college basketball teams

Unable to find season ticket data, here is what data I could find on Kansas:

Single games
11/2/10 Washburn $35.00 $20.00 October25,2010
11/9/10 EmporiaState $35.00 $20.00 October25,2010
11/12/10 Longwood $50.00 $35.00 October25,2010
11/15/10 Valparaiso $50.00 $35.00 October25,2010
11/19/10 NorthTexas $50.00 $35.00 October25,2010
11/23/10 TexasA&MCC $50.00 $35.00 October25,2010
12/2/10 UCLA $75.00 $50.00 October25,2010
12/11/10 ColoradoState $50.00 $35.00 October25,2010
12/18/10 USC $75.00 $50.00 December6,2010
12/29/10 Texas‐Arlington $50.00 $35.00 December6,2010
1/2/11 Miami(OH) $50.00 $35.00 December6,2010
1/5/11 UMKC $50.00 $35.00 December6,2010
1/15/11 Nebraska $75.00 $50.00 December6,2010
1/22/11 Texas $90.00 $75.00 December6,2010
1/29/11 KansasState $90.00 $75.00 December6,2010
2/7/11 Missouri $90.00 $75.00 January24,2011
2/12/11 IowaState $75.00 $50.00 January24,2011
2/19/11 Colorado $75.00 $50.00 January24,2011
2/21/11 OklahomaState $75.00 $50.00 January24,2011
3/2/11 TexasA&M $75.00 $50.00 January24,2011

Comparison: Clearly for this perennial 1-seed they have higher ticket prices - NBA style ticket prices in fact. Obviously more expensive than UNLV, and in Kansas, probably worth it.
UNLV vs. the NBA

I've selected one team to compare with, we're not talking the Lakers. We'll go with my beloved bottom dwelling Golden State Warriors. Here are their season tickets:

As you can see, their prices aren't extraordinarily higher than UNLV's.
Comparison: UNLV is going to win a championship before the Warriors will, but you're not going to see Kobe, Lebron, or Durant play against the Rebels, so there's always that.

Final words
The proof is in the pudding, if Rebel basketball weren't worth watching then average attendance of 13,253 would not be that high. People aren't going to the games and walking out saying they've been ripped off - its a fun atmosphere that likens more to an NBA game than a college game in terms of theatrics. 

There is always room for improvement, and having viewed what other teams are doing and charging - there are some glaring examples. 

1) Encourage families to go - UNLV lacks family pack pricing, and youth ticket discounts. Before you say, WAIT - they have the Rebel Kids Club -- it's a mysterious program that works for the overall NCAA athletics but is not specifically tailored to UNLV Basketball. Why not reduced youth prices for season tickets? Where is the "pepsi 4-packs" where people get hot-dog, drink, and ticket for a reasonable price?

2) Lower ticket prices - it will be interesting to see whether Las Vegas's massive unemployment (and underemployment) will hurt ticket buying and attendance next year. There is certainly no reason to raise prices, but there is a good reason to lower them. Probably in the grand scheme Dave Rice's lower salary isn't helping the bottom line much - but there's some money there.

3) Mini-plans - Most of the other teams offer season ticket type plans with flexible offerings. Instead of 18 games, how about 10, 8, 6 or 4? Also, give people who buy mini-plans some reward above and beyond single game purchasers, like a parking benefit. Obviously these tickets would be better seats and lower prices than single game tickets. 

4) Expand the Alumni reach - Try something experimental, push the alumni discount on season tickets out to 10 years instead of the 2 or 3 years it currently is. Additionally, make a starter RAF fund donation something like $25 for this level. This would increase attendance by alumni, and get these people in the habit of donating to the RAF fund. 

5) Better marketing - Billboards seem to be the weapon of choice for UNLV, expand it to web-advertising, twitter advertising, maybe even a groupon type of deal. People who are not die-hards need another reason to come to the games, its pretty easy to stay at home and watch in high def for nothing. 

I hope you've enjoyed this comparison, it took a lot more time than I expected but I believe it shines a little light on a not often considered subject. If you have any ideas or breakdowns of your own, please share.


Offical websites of UNLV, Wyoming, CSU, Air Force, BYU, SDSU, New Mexico, Golden State Warriors, Kansas.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the info. I agree on having kids prices for season tickets and single game tickets. This year they did offer Alumni season tickets buy one get one free in balcony section. I am a native LVn and feel that when we are doing good is when we advertise when we are doing not so hot we dont advertise and that is when we need to do the most advertising. I am guilty myself of not attending that many games since Tark shame on me but have started going to a few games in past years and this year since Rice I have been to 2 games and got to see us beat UNC on TV. I wished that there would have been more advertisement done for the USC and the UNC games there appeared to be a lot of open seats in the Orleans Arena. I will always be a Rebel fan and my wife and I have decided to be more supportive and have made going to the games as part of our family entertainment from here on out. Thanks again for your time and info. GO REBELS

    Rick and Kathryn Holbert