Keeping Score: UMass sticker shock

Published: 4/19/2019 9:40:20 PM
Modified: 4/19/2019 9:40:06 PM

Good morning!
The UMass ticket office is notifying hockey fans they can put a $50 deposit toward 2019-20 season tickets with the balance due on June 18. The lowest price for a season ticket this year is $214, including $10 for shipping and handling, and $197 for seniors and faculty.

The deposit amount approximates this year’s rate hike, which was both inevitable and justified after the Minutemen won 31 games and advanced to the NCAA title game. 

Hockey East doesn’t regulate ticket prices and schools can charge what the market will bear. At Boston College, a cheap seat to every game last season cost $150. Fans who paid early got Johnny Gaudreau bobbleheads, complimentary football tickets and other perks.

Conversely, the University of Maine charged $50 for one ticket to a single game last season, the highest price in college hockey. The marketing strategy backfired and attendance at Alfond Arena ebbed to its lowest since before the Black Bears’ 1993 championship season. This week, the Kennebec Journal reported that prices for the 2019-20 season will be slashed by one third and season tickets will cost between $215 and $600.

The Minutemen averaged 4,876 fans in the Mullins Center, the 12th highest in Division 1 according to the College Hockey News. The top draws were North Dakota which averaged 11,398 at Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, and Wisconsin which averaged 10,044 at the Kohl Center in Madison.

The UMass-Lowell River Hawks averaged slightly less than their Amherst counterparts numbers-wise, but the 6,500-seat Tsongas Center was filled to 71 percent capacity compared to 58.2 percent at the Mullins Center. The Tsongas Center opened in 1998, and hockey took off when the River Hawks won back-to-back Hockey East championships in 2012-14. 

This year, UMass Lowell will be charging $20 per game and $260 for season tickets. “The goal is to have one-third students, one-third season ticket holders and one-third walk-ups,” said UMass-Lowell Associate AD for Marketing John Boswell.

“The run by Amherst was great because it really created a rivalry with our fans,” he added. “The building was packed when Amherst came here and our fans took pleasure in taking two games (one in Amherst).”

UMass-Lowell has a creative and incentive-based method of getting fans to pay early. For the third straight year it’ll have a “Month of Prizes” for season ticket holders who pay before the early deadline. A prize will be drawn every day in June, and like Wheel of Fortune they will vary in value. One day it’ll be a Zamboni ride or an honorary puck drop, another day it’ll be a suite above rinkside and $400 in food credit.

Other prizes last year included a gift certificate to the River Hawks souvenir shop (won by sportswriter Ron Borges), and an autographed bobblehead of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who’s now with the Winnipeg Jets.

“We want to reward season ticket holders,” said Boswell, “let them be in the team photo, have drinks and appetizers with the coach, put their photo on a game ticket. They appreciate it, and it makes them feel more like they’re part of the team.”

The only incentive UMass is offering prospective season ticket holders is the opportunity to make a good seat selection. “We are offering a $50 per seat deposit, which gives you an opportunity to select your seat location prior to those who do not place a $50 deposit,” said UMass ticket operations manager Warren Hayden. “It’s very affordable.”

No argument there, still cheap, as Alfred E. Neuman would say.

Charles “Charlie” Pierce will speak at Williams College on Thursday 7 p.m. at Griffin Hall. The event is hosted by the school’s sports information department and will be open to the public.

Pierce was born and raised in Worcester and graduated from St. John’s High School in Shewsbury. He attended Marquette and majored in journalism.

According to his Wikipedia biography, Pierce was a forest ranger for the Commonwealth before his bylines began appearing in Worcester Magazine, the Boston Herald and the Boston Phoenix. 

Pierce has written for The New York Times, the LA Times and Chicago Tribune, together with Sports Illustrated and GQ. He’s currently Esquire Magazine’s political blogger. 

The annual event is sports information director Dick Quinn’s tribute to the volunteer students who help him cover the school’s 32 interscholastic athletic teams. If you go, park on campus and look for the brick building with the gold dome next to the chapel.

The Daily Racing Form’s Bill Finley broke the news on Wednesday that an early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, Maximus Mischief, has been retired. “It’s a tendon tear,” co-owner Chuck Zacney told Finley.

Maximus Mischief cost $340,000 at the yearling auction and won his first start last September by nine lengths with an eye-popping 82 Beyer Speed Figure. “The vets said he’d be maybe 80 to 90 percent of what he was, and it would not have been fair to do that to the horse,” said Zacney. “It’s a tough sport, a tough game.”

Saratoga handicapper Dave Gonzalez hasn’t backed off the pick he gave us earlier this year. “I am still on Code of Honor,” he emailed. “I also think Roadster should be tough. Tacitis intrigues me, but he seems a bit slow. I’ll know more next week.”

Amby Burfoot, the 1968 Boston Marathon winner, will run in the Grace Cottage 5K in Townshend, Vt. on May 11. Pre-race registration is $15, and $20 the day of the race. T-shirts to everyone while they last, go to www.gracecottage.org/events for more info.

Spring football games traditionally kick off the new season and attract huge crowds at the usual campus hotbeds— 85,000 at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, 61,000 at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, 51,000 at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium— but Amherst isn’t a hotbed.

The football team is 18-66 since 2012 and in such disarray it can’t put two teams together for a scrimmage. The UMass website announced this week that “Due to personnel limitations at key positions on the roster” the team will have a “spring showcase” today at 11 a.m. The public workout will feature “individual position drills” and photo ops with the Sam the Minutefan.

Maybe Sam will throw a few passes and move up on the depth chart.

SQUIBBERS: College Hockey News reported that AIC coach Eric Lang was spotted at St. Lawrence this week, fueling speculation he might take over the struggling program. Lang did a running Twitter feed on CHN of the UMass-Duluth title game, including head scratchers like, “Hand identification off face-offs extremely important (ozone starts).” … Greenfield’s Carol Bresciano went into Harper’s Store to check her numbers and saw she’d hit for a few hundred dollars on her birthday. How to hit ’em, Carol. … Bruins great Ray Bourque crossed the Stop & Shop picket line in North Andover this week carrying items for a “medical procedure” and social media concluded he’s getting a colonoscopy. Bourque apologized for his indiscretion and promised to join the picket line. … If 1 p.m. kickoffs are your thing, Buffalo’s your team. All but two of the Bills’ 16 games this season will kick off at 1 p.m.  Meanwhile, the Patriots will go from Oct. 13 until Dec. 15 without an early kickoff. Get out the No Doz. … Dustin Pedroia’s batting .100 (2-for-20) and his playing days appear to be numbered, but Red Sox fan Brad Councilman thinks Pedroia will stay in uniform albeit “in a Johnny Pesky type of role.” … Cale Makar scored his first NHL goal during Colorado’s playoff win against Calgary on Monday, and had 20 minutes of ice time during their next win on Wednesday. The former Minuteman’s “new home” is a Denver hotel room according to the Denver Post. …. Mookie Betts was 0-for-7 against the Yankees this week and NESN’s Jim Rice said, “He’s got a hitch in his swing and taking his hands under his letters. And also, the pitchers are getting smarter.” … Chicago Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes riffed on the Marlins Triple-A team in New Orleans, specifically their “BabyCakes” logo: “It’s an ugly baby with an Elvis Presley snarl.” … Upon hearing that Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono had won the Boston Marathon and Ethipioa’s Leslisa Desisa was second, Red Sox broadcaster Sean McDonough said, “Yeah. I thought so. I had the exacta.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.


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