February 19, 2020 • Athletic Administration

Considerations for raising ticket prices

Finding enough money to effectively operate an athletic program is often a challenge for an athletic administrator. Budgets are commonly bare-boned, and this means that administrators have to look for additional sources for financial support. As one possible solution, an athletic director might think about raising the ticket prices in order to produce more gate revenue to help close the gap.

Before you jump at this possibility, you really should think about the following considerations.

1. What are the other league members charging? If you’re the only school raising prices, or if your increase is significantly higher than neighboring schools, you may have a problem with fans. As a matter of fact, it’s extremely wise that an entire league determines and uses the same pricing guidelines for all member schools. This makes the question of cost much easier to explain and justify to the fans, since they will be paying the same amount at all schools. Therefore, the idea of increasing the price of tickets should be an agenda item at league meetings and to get support and consensus from all members.

2. What do the demographics of your community, and those of other league members, tell you with respect to the effect of a price increase upon families? While increasing the cost of a ticket by even a dollar after the current price has been in effect for several years may be reasonable, it’s important not to make the increase too large in one huge jump. By drastically increasing the price, you run the risk of actually causing some individuals to stop attending contests.

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3. Do you have provisions for season and family passes? As part of the discussion of how price increases may impact some families, passes with special rates may lessen the burden on them. Also, weather can affect attendance at games and you have the money ‘up front’ with passes, which means that you will have less fluctuation in gate receipts.

4. Do you keep your community informed as to how the gate receipts are spent? If parents and community members know why revenue from ticket sales is important for the operation of the program, they may not oppose a modest increase. It’s also important to present the context that ticket prices have not been increased in many years and, during this time, operational costs have risen considerably. Ticket prices need to keep pace, but it’s also vital that those paying for admission understand this fact.

While raising ticket prices may produce additional gate revenue, it’s important to thoroughly think through all factors and possible ramifications.

David Hoch, CMAA, has 16 years of experience as a high school athletic director and served for 12 years as the executive director of the Maryland State Coaches Association. In 2000, he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association. His column, A.D.ministration, focuses on issues in athletic administration and appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine.