The restructuring of the ticketing and admission procedure for men’s basketball games is a step towards changing the “culture” of GW basketball and preparing fans for a major overhaul of Smith Center seating, Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz said.
Within the next three years, barring any unexpected budgetary constraints, the University is planning to replace at least the upper portion of the student section with individual stadium-style seats – a project that is estimated to cost about $1.5 million, Kvancz said. The mechanism that collapses the bleachers is severely damaged and further harm to it could expedite the need to replace the bleachers with individual seats.
Replacing bleachers in the 31-year-old building is a repair that goes beyond the needs of the basketball programs, which use the building about 30 days each year for games. The building is also used for graduation, concerts and other privately operated events.
Arena-style seats would allow for a system where students purchase season-ticket packages for men’s basketball. Kvancz said he does not see that as a negative thing, as it is a policy most Division I athletic programs have in place.
“I would like to see a purchased season ticket at some point,” Kvancz said. “It wouldn’t hurt (the athletic department), but I’ve gotten along without it for years.”
Nationally, ticketing and admission policies differ greatly. Kvancz said he has been calling other schools around the country to inquire about methods to adopt at GW.
He said he’s heard an array of suggestions from different parts of the country, ranging from age-based systems to financially beneficial policies.
When Kvancz was a student at Boston College, where he graduated in 1968, football admission depended on your year in college. Seniors were allowed to purchase tickets Tuesday, juniors on Wednesday, sophomores on Tuesday and if any were left over, freshmen got a shot on Friday, he said.
Duke University, whose Cameron Indoor Arena seats only 9,314, opens doors before each game and seats are occupied at a first-come, first-serve basis. Kvancz said he is not inclined to move toward a system that causes camping on the street.
As a contrast, Atlantic 10 programs have season ticket systems. The University of Dayton Arena seats 14,500 and only 500 seats are available for student prices. If the seats aren’t sold, they are released to the public at full price.
Charlotte has an online ticket portal where students request tickets. Students are permitted one ticket for each game after paying an athletic fee. Admission into the stadium is based on “loyalty points.” A student earns these points by attending other athletic department events such as soccer and volleyball games.
Xavier, a similarly popular program in the A-10, does not require students to pay for tickets but designates a two-day period where students must present their student identification card for tickets. The best seats are given out first and the ID cards are validated when tickets are picked up and when students enter the arena.
Kvancz said season ticket plans for students is a logical step for GW. With a 5,000-seat arena, GW is limited with its options, Kvancz said.
“It’s like ‘catching up with the Jones,'” Kvancz said.
This year, the University has no plans to make students pay for tickets, said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services. But Chernak and Kvancz are in agreement that with upgrades to the Smith Center seating, tickets are necessary.
Kvancz said the athletic department has never had to turn a student away from the Smith Center and said he never plans to. A season ticket program would ensure a seat for each person and room for others who want to buy tickets on a game-to-game basis.
The reason for “changing the culture” of basketball ticketing, Kvancz said, is multifaceted. Instead of instituting the changes all at once, Kvancz said he wants students to understand and become accustomed to picking up tickets.
The culture, which has been free admission since the program’s inception, will drastically change. Kvancz said he’s comfortable with it.
“It is inevitable that (purchasing tickets) would happen,” Kvancz said. “It’s our mission to serve students and I’ll do everything I can to do that.”