South Carolina football season-ticket sales are higher than they were at the same point last year — and a planned summer push could help the Gamecocks score an increase in full-year sales for the first time in years.
USC has sold more than 1,600 season tickets more through this week than in 2010, USC deputy athletics director Marcy Girton said. “All indications are that more people are interested.”
The Gamecocks are coming off their first SEC division title.
The school is stepping up summer sales efforts by having eight interns work with the ticket office. A push last summer spurred an additional 2,800 season-ticket sales. This year’s campaign will last until the Gamecocks’ first home game, Sept. 17 versus Navy.
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Season-ticket sales have tumbled 30 percent since 2008, the year before USC introduced an annual seat fee to raise money for athletics projects just as the economy soured. Fans must pay the fee on top of annual Gamecock Club dues and the cost of tickets.
Season-ticket prices will remain unchanged for the fifth consecutive season, at $320 per seat, Girton said. Seats fees also will stay the same as part of a promise not to raise them the first three years. A plan to hike Gamecock Club fees was put on hold because of the economy, Girton said.
Still, some fans are not coming to Williams-Brice Stadium because of the price tag during poor economic times, a USC board of trustees member said.
“I think we have run the ticket prices and the seat (fees) up where it’s unaffordable for a lot of people,” said Eddie Floyd, a Florence physician whose name adorns the football offices on the north side of the stadium. “I get complaints every week about how much it costs to go to the game. I think we probably should have gradually raised our fees up rather than hit them all at one time. We lost a lot of good Gamecock supporters”
Season-ticket sales also have fallen in recent years because some Gamecock Club members who were buying multiple season tickets — as many as 25 a year — trimmed their purchases after the fee of $50-$395 per seat was levied, Girton said.
The school tried to attract more buyers by lowering the minimum Gamecock Club annual contribution needed to qualify for season tickets from $1,500 to $55. That has helped lead to an 11 percent increase in Gamecock Club membership since 2009.
But the number of top-dollar donors — those paying $725 to $15,000 a year — has dropped since the seat fee was introduced, according to numbers provided by the school. The Gamecock Club has raised $1.3 million less so far this year than it did in all of 2009, when donations dropped sharply because of the new seat fee.
Despite the fall-off in season tickets, sales efforts last year — along with one of the team’s best seasons — helped fill the void. Attendance was the highest in two seasons and up 4,500 a game over 2009.
The school has produced a number of ads featuring Gamecocks stars, including All-American wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, to run online and on television in an effort to increase sales.
And USC finished a series of Fan Fests across the state this week to stir interest and attract fans to games. The family-friendly, interactive events — fans could meet Cocky, cheerleaders and coaches as well as get their pictures taken with trophies — replaced the annual series of Gamecock Club dinners.
The six fests, which wrapped up at Darlington Raceway, drew average crowds of more than 400, Gamecock Club director Patrick McFarland said — more than double the average size of the crowds attending dinners in 2010.