FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek cited demand for tickets and fairness as the driving forces behind the change in priority of seats at Razorbacks baseball stadium, Baum-Walker Stadium , from next season.
Yurachek said 43% of season ticket holders had not paid “market donation rates” for their seats at the stadium. Yurachek said market rates are driven by demand and cost analysis in other stages of the SEC.
“When the stadium opened 25 years ago, there were loyal fans who were seated, I would call them the best seats in Baum-Walker stadium, who have never been members of the Razorback Foundation,” he said. Yurachek said. “As there has been attrition, there have been people who have come to sit next to them who are members of the Razorback Foundation (members) at some of our highest levels because it is is what is needed to access those seats now. “
According to an email sent to season pass holders, all seats in Sections 107 through 109 behind the plate will require a minimum annual donation of $ 10,000 starting in the 2022 season.
Seats in Sections 103-106 and 110-112 will require a minimum donation of $ 5,000, with the exception of seats in Section 105, where families of players and coaches receive free tickets.
Other starting donation points for seats in the stadium are $ 100, $ 500, $ 1,000, $ 2,000 and $ 3,000. Previously, some backrest seats were available without a donation requirement.
No donation is required to purchase season tickets in the Hog Pen, a grassed berm area beyond the left field wall.
Donors who donate between $ 10,000 and $ 19,999 to the Razorback Foundation’s annual fund are classified as Broyles-Matthews Gold, and donors who donate between $ 5,000 and $ 9,999 are considered Broyles-Matthews Silver. A separate Broyles-Matthews Platinum rating is reserved for donors with annual donations exceeding $ 20,000.
According to the AU, there are approximately 1,200 donors in the three Broyles-Matthews levels, more than enough to account for the 2,383 available seats located in the sections reserved for Broyles-Matthews donors. Broyles-Matthews donors will be able to purchase six season tickets, while lower donor groups will be limited to two or four. Yurachek said the ticket limits are designed to allow more individuals and families to purchase tickets.
Yurachek said he expects to lose season ticket holders because of the change, but said there are enough people on a waiting list to make up for any loss. According to AU figures, there are over 1,000 accounts on a waiting list to purchase tickets at the park, which has a listed capacity of 11,129. There are approximately 2,800 active season ticket accounts. , according to the AU.
“We are past the time we had to do it at Baum-Walker Stadium,” Yurachek said.
“Yes, there is pain and there are loyal season ticket holders who have sat in the same seats at Baum-Walker stadium for 25 years who feel like they are being kicked out. They are not expelled. They can be asked to change the location of their seat, but they are not expelled from the Baum-Walker stadium. “
Prior to the latest change in seating priority, some seats behind and near home plate required Broyles-Matthews Platinum donation levels of $ 20,000 or more for new ticket buyers. The same sections included season ticket buyers who had been vested under previous deals at a time when watching games was not as popular.
“This person who may have been there for 25 years, we hear so many complaints from the person sitting next to her who for 10 years has paid the entire Razorback Foundation donation, and says, ‘Hey, I’m going. stop paying my donation if the person next to me doesn’t pay anything to sit there, ”Yurachek said. “We hear it from both sides of the fence. “
Yurachek pointed out that all existing season ticket holders would be eligible to purchase tickets for the same amount in 2022 that they paid for before, with two exceptions: those who occupy rear seats and who have no no donation tied to their tickets and suite holders. .
The Razorbacks have promised a cap on all non-sequel season ticket prices until at least the 2024 season. Season pass packages cost $ 250 per seat.
However, the overall costs – ticket prices plus donation fees – could potentially increase significantly for families of three or more who wish to attend games together. In order to purchase three or four tickets, a donation of at least $ 1,000 is now required. A large family would have to pay a donation of at least $ 5,000 to be able to buy five or six tickets.
“One of the things we were very intentional about is that anyone who has a membership right now will have the option to have a Baum-Walker Stadium membership next year,” said Yurachek. “No one is kicked out of the stadium, but… you’re going to have to make a choice: do I want to stay in these seats and pay at this level? Or will I move elsewhere in the stadium to keep my season tickets?
Season pass holders were notified of the impending change through an email on Thursday, then received a personalized email from the Razorback ticket office on Friday. These emails detailed how much ticket holders paid for their seats last year and how much they would have to pay for the same seats in the future.
“We take a very personal approach to this,” Yurachek said. “We have opened a customer service center at the Razorback Foundation. Each subscription holder will have a date and time to call the customer service center. We’ll discuss their options with them, whether it’s a payment option so they can keep their current seats … or other available seats that are more in the price range of what they want. to pay.
Many subscription holders took to social media and message boards on Friday to voice their dissatisfaction with the policy. Marty B Cornell said she started donating to the baseball program with her late father in 1995.
“Since 1995, I’ve donated $ 9,350 to baseball, but that doesn’t mean anything now,” Cornell wrote on WholeHogSports.com. She has granted permission to quote her post in this story. “I have to find $ 3,000 a year to keep my seat.”
That, she said, would equate to a 250% increase in annual donations.
Cornell said varsity baseball has “long been a welcoming (and reasonably priced) place for families.” She said many of her friends were able to take their entire family to Arkansas baseball games, but not football games because of the cost.
“I doubt that many of them can afford the requisite baseball gift,” Cornell wrote. “Our hatchback group is made up of many teachers, not the inhabitants of the boardrooms. And teaching isn’t exactly a well-paying profession.
Stephen Caldwell has said he has had tickets since Baum-Walker Stadium opened in 1996, when he purchased a family package that included discounted tickets for his children. He said he has seen ticket prices gradually increase since then, but the latest change will more than double the price of his seats.
“It’s baseball, it’s not Afghanistan, so… I’m trying to keep the right perspective,” Caldwell said. “I also understand that college sports are big business and they do what they need to do, but from what I’ve seen, a lot of people are being asked to double or more their donation to keep their money. seats, and a lot of those people are fans who don’t have that kind of money. For me, I don’t know if we will keep our seats or not.
“I know for a lot of people it’s going to be tough, and it’s a lot of people who are responsible for the atmosphere, which really makes Baum Stadium what it is.”
Caldwell said he believes there will be more empty seats at games after the change.
“If I spend a certain amount of money on a ticket, I’ll probably use it if I can, or I’ll sell it or I’ll give it away,” Caldwell said. “I’ll make sure it’s used because that $ 20 is a big deal for me. If $ 20 isn’t a big deal for me, don’t go to a game because it’s too hot, too cold, too humid, whatever, or because I just have something better to do – it’s not that bad, so they just don’t go.
“Some people buy (season tickets) and they just buy them for the playoffs. They buy them for LSU games or big conference games at the end of the year, instead of buying them for Murray States or whoever might be earlier in the year. It’s their right and I’m not against it, it just changes the atmosphere when there are fewer people and less die-hards playing creating the atmosphere.
“I just know Arkansas baseball wouldn’t be the same without people like Hognoxious (Bobby Smittle) or people carrying flags on their retractable poles, or people holding spoons or creating the beer hats phenomenon. . God bless them, for this is what makes the Arkansas experience different from any other place you can go in America.
Yurachek said money was not the driving force behind the seat priority change, but said it would be “dishonest” not to recognize that donations will increase because of it. He said the increased income will support baseball and other programs on campus.
In a video sent to season ticket holders Thursday, Yurachek cited the Razorbacks’ increased investment in baseball over the past decade. According to its NCAA Membership Financial Report, the AU had baseball expenses of over $ 4.6 million in 2020, up from $ 2.7 million in 2010.
Arkansas is one of the few nationally profitable baseball programs, Yurachek said, but the costs of staying competitive are rising. Yurachek cited rising travel and technology costs, and tracking improvements in other SEC stadiums that are geared toward the athlete experience.
“When I got there, coach (Dave) Van Horn and I took a tour of his clubhouse and dressing rooms, and for a program that was in the top 20, if not the top 10 for most of the time. its most recent history. … We weren’t even close to where we needed to be for our program, ”said Yurachek, who was hired in December 2017.“ Ole Miss just renovated their stadium, the State of Mississippi built a brand new stadium, Texas A&M had a fairly new stadium built over the past decade – all of our programs in this league are investing and reinvesting in their facilities.
“Baseball and the investment you have to make, especially at this level if you want to stay competitive at the national level, is important.”
The Razorbacks recently gave head coach Dave Van Horn salary increases and assistant coaches Matt Hobbs and Nate Thompson – the combined salaries are worth $ 1.785 million a year before the incentives. Arkansas also opened the new $ 27 million Hunt Family Baseball Development Center – which includes a new clubhouse – this summer.
Yurachek said the costs associated with the hunt center and the salary increases were covered by past donations and the Razorbacks’ operating budget.