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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 3, 2003

Revenue falls despite rise in UH ticket prices

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Once, University of Hawai'i men's volleyball was a rock show, each match teeming with screaming teens.

UH volleyball

• WHO: Santa Barbara vs. UH

• WHAT: Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match

• WHEN: Tomorrow and Saturday, 7 p.m.

• WHERE: Stan Sheriff Center

• ADMISSION: $12 lower level; $9 (adults, upper level); $8 ages 65-older; $6 ages 4-18, UH students.


The stories are legendary, of autograph sessions lasting into the deep night, of UH players sneaking away in laundry carts.

Live television made the players stars and the matches events.

"Television," UH coach Mike Wilton said, "had a big hand in people coming to the arena. Television showed people what they were missing by staying home."

But that was the mid-1990s, and the party has toned down. Now, like reunion shows, the fan base is older. Television is no longer the lure but the attraction.

"Seven, eight years ago, I heard there were a lot of youngsters coming to the matches to support the team," UH outside hitter Costas Theocharidis said. "Because of the higher ticket prices, things have changed."

Wilton, who has charted attendance and revenue figures over the last decade, believes the demographics of the fan base began to change in 1998, when UH implemented a new ticket plan. The top ticket price went from $8 to $12, with student tickets going from $4 to $7. (Students now pay $6.) Also, reserved seating replaced the first-come, first-served system in the 10,000-seat Stan Sheriff Center.

"The kids have been driven off," said Wilton, whose team hosts UC Santa Barbara tomorrow and Saturday. "They can't sit in the lower bowl. The evidence is irrefutable ."

In 1997, the program earned a profit of $634,000 from $913,956 in gross revenue, Wilton said. In 1998, the first year of the new pricing plan, gross revenue dropped to $788,000.

"It keeps dropping, to the point where we're averaging 3,700 in the house" this season (down from 7,500 in 1997), Wilton said. During last year's national championship season, the Warriors grossed $659,675.

"And that's with higher ticket prices," Wilton said. "You have to ask yourself, 'why?' What I hear all of the time is, 'your players are not as charismatic as they used to be.' I have no opinion on that. I have no idea about that. We had some good teams then and we have a good team now."

Whatever the cause, the effect, according to the players, is a more subdued home crowd.

"We don't get a lot of students," libero Jake Muise said. "Except for the football guys who come out, like Isaac (Sopoaga), we don't get a lot of young and crazy students who make a lot of noise. I guess the seats are pretty expensive. It's tough sometimes when you come home after a hard day. You'd rather sit at home and watch the match instead of drive all the way here and pay money. We love our fans and appreciate them. We'd just love to have more of them."

Noting the program has not had a home sellout since January 1998, Wilton said, "Should we raise the price of a ticket and make less money or keep ticket prices down and make more money? That's one way of looking at it."

In addressing the issue, UH is offering the first 500 UH students free admission to Saturday's match. "It's a small step in the right direction," Wilton said.