University of Kansas

Allen Fieldhouse had empty seats in its exhibition games. Why KU’s AD isn’t concerned

The sight hasn’t been common at Allen Fieldhouse.

For both of Kansas basketball’s two exhibition games, there were multiple empty rows in the northwest and southwest corners, leaving many to wonder whether this trend would continue in the regular season — beginning with Friday’s home opener against UNC Greensboro.

KU athletic director Jeff Long worked to allay some of those fears Thursday, saying — for instance — that the Jayhawks’ streak of 291 consecutive sellouts dating back to the 2001-02 season appears to be safe.

“I think the demand we see, that’s not in jeopardy,” Long said. “Now, sold out and attending are two different things.”

And there were perhaps valid reasons for KU ticket-holders to stay home for two preseason games in October.

Both contests were on Thursday nights, and the second one was on Halloween, when many people might have chosen to celebrate the holiday instead of making their way to campus.

Long, though, reports that the overall ticket numbers for basketball remain encouraging. He said that KU was officially “sold out” for all its non-conference games through December, while at the same time holding back some single-game tickets for those who might be interested in full-season packages.

The fact that KU still has season tickets available also is different from some years past. The department has advertised this in many ways, whether on the video board at Allen Fieldhouse, in signage around the arena or in having Long discuss it during radio interviews.

“I talk about it a little bit more because I want to sell tickets. I think that’s my job as an AD, to push and sell tickets,” Long said. “So we have season tickets available. I want those fans to know we have them available, because there becomes a perception, ‘Oh, they’re always sold out.’”

Long said KU’s season tickets will remain on sale until the Jayhawks’ home Colorado game, which is Dec. 7.

What remains unclear is how much of KU’s “sold out” status can be attributed to a contract with Tickets For Less. The Overland Park-based company maintains a partnership with KU, according to Long, though he didn’t go into further details about KU Athletics’ policy relating to ticket brokers.

As far as the empty seats go ... Long said getting fans to attend games has been a growing obstacle for most schools over the past decade. That’s even started to reach some of the blue bloods; Kentucky, for example, recently reduced capacity at Rupp Arena by about 3,000 seats.

“You go to weeknight games across the country, they’re having trouble filling those games,” Long said. “It has not hit Kansas, but it’s definitely happening other places.”

Overall, Long said he is optimistic KU would reach its men’s basketball ticket goal revenue projections. The athletic department reported bringing in more than $15 million in men’s basketball ticket revenues for both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.

“We’re seeing demand. We feel the demand. We have an excellent team,” Long said. “ ... So I have no concerns that we’re going to be short of selling out our arenas for these games.”

And the noticeable no-shows? Long believes that won’t continue either.

“I think when we get past exhibition games,” Long said, “I don’t think we’re going to see that in these games to come.”

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.