November 5, 2021 | NEWS | By Zeke Lloyd | Photo by Anil Jergens
When planning the construction of the Ed Robson Arena, Colorado College leadership emphasized that an on-campus venue for hockey would incentivize more students to come to games. Yet since the beginning of the Tigers’ season, there’s been a mad scramble for tickets to the student section that leave some would-be spectators kicked to the curb.
Representatives from the college’s athletic department discussed the logic for how seats are distributed in the arena.
“We settled on building a building at around 3,400 seats,” said Colorado College Director of Athletics, Lesley Irvine. “We felt that was the right size.”
That number is the product of more than a feeling, though. It was arrived at after consultations with industry standards, financial considerations, and discussions within CC administration.
Deciding the number of allotted student tickets in the arena was a similar process. Now, with the hockey team coming off of a landslide victory over Air Force Academy last Saturday, Oct. 30, the demand for a seat in the arena is high.
In the past, the hockey team played their games at the Broadmoor World Arena, and physical tickets were distributed throughout the week to students who came to the Worner Desk to claim them.
Now, the ticket distribution process has moved to an online portal. Starting at 8am on the Monday before games, students must log on to the portal to claim their tickets on a first-come first-serve basis. The number of tickets given out early on Monday morning is receiving more scrutiny than ever.
At the Air Force exhibition game, the school provided 350 seats for students. That figure makes up roughly 17% of the student body.
“We recently moved that ticket allotment up significantly higher,” Irvine said. However, the figure was only increased by a little over 50 tickets. Now, around 400 student tickets are available each game — roughly 19.7% of the campus population.
“I’m not a big sports person but it seems difficult to get tickets and a lot of people who really want to go to games aren’t able to do so,” Lorea Zabaleta ’23 said.
While the number of tickets made available has increased, the quantity of tangible seats in the student section remains at 250. Seating exists for only a little over half of the students who hold tickets.
David Bailey, Assistant Director of Marketing for Athletics, gave one reason why the number of student spots in the arena are less than the number of tickets given out: some students claim a ticket but don’t show up to the game.
“I think it was about 75% or 80% that scanned into the [Air Force exhibition game],” Bailey said. “That number fell to about 65% for the next game and then to about 60% that third game.”
This melt is somewhat surprising when compared with the student demand for tickets. Every student ticket has been claimed at the last three games, and Bailey noted that tickets are snatched up within the first few hours after they’re made available.
An explanation for this discrepancy between claimed tickets and game attendance might be the methodology of ticket distribution itself.
The first-come, first-serve model can lead to a quick grab from students early on Monday morning; it does not encourage them to check the feasibility that some future event might prevent them from attending the game. Those who log on first aren’t necessary the ones most committed to attending a game on Friday, and there is no disincentive for students to leave their tickets unused.
“I haven’t attended any hockey games this year because I don’t want to wake up at 8am for all the tickets to be claimed within minutes,” Izzie Hicks ’22 said. “My freshman year, I went to several games at the world arena because day of I could walk up to the Worner Desk and still get a ticket.”
Hicks added that “I could probably still get hockey tickets now if I really wanted to. I just haven’t tried that hard.”
In addition, the current digital infrastructure isn’t equipped to accommodate those students who claim a ticket but ultimately can’t attend games.
“I wish we could have students being able to transfer back and forth tickets because I know that would help a lot. It’s just not an ability we have at the moment,” Bailey said.
Some students have attempted to informally exchange their tickets before games, however. Large group chats of students are often filled with messages of people asking for and offering unclaimed tickets before each game.
Some students who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of backlash told The Catalyst that they’ve seen students offer to pay money to their peers for hockey tickets, which are distributed first-come first-serve to students through the online portal for free.
The early morning scramble for tickets, and frenzied chatter to claim one, is no accident, though. Executive Director of Ed Robson Arena, Colin Bailey, describes one benefit to the current number of allotted student spots.
“We don’t necessarily want to have that ‘walk up, walk in’, because then there’s no enticement. You want little bit of a challenge,” Colin Bailey said. “We can all just go walk into a grocery store anytime we want, but when that hot movie comes out in theaters, there’s a little bit of a demand.”
There are other factors that contribute to the number of tickets CC can provide to students. Season ticket holders own 2,250 seats: 66% of the arena’s capacity.
“We have a lot of old fans in our season ticket holder base. [Fans] that have been here for 20, 30, 40 years,” David Bailey said. “Some say they’ve been here for that long, who knows if that’s really true. We do have some records that indicate that they’ve been here for a long time, but we can’t really look past the world arena days.”
The Broadmoor World Arena, where the men’s hockey team used to play their games, opened 23 years ago in 1998.
Some season ticket holders include members of the college community. The first people offered season tickets were faculty and staff. Corporate sponsors own tickets in the arena as well, although CC mandated COVID-19 protocols make their tickets less appealing to some of their clients.
COVID-19 precautions likely contribute to one of the larger issues in terms of season ticket holder attendance. The group has a roughly 30% no-show rate, and between 5% and 7% of the season ticket holders have left their seats empty at every game.
According to some fans, vaccine and mask mandates incline them to not attend games but still hold tickets, as opposed to giving them up without the promise of a chance to repurchase next year. The administration has developed a system for tickets to be resold game-by-game in an effort to fill those seats.
Student ticket allotment is a balance of many things. Irvine said that a big priority was making the arena a part of campus culture.
“There are all sorts of formulas in the business,” Irvine said. “We wanted more students; this is a community and campus building.”
But that has to be balanced with a financial reality, too.
“We’ve got revenue requirements, so we can’t give away free tickets to anybody we could possibly want,” David Bailey said. “But I think it’s been our goal to try and help the students.”