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  • Jordan Banegas

MISSING: Cheap Seats & Kids at Aggie Games

Have high ticket prices left a generation of Aggie fans on the outside of the Pan Am looking in?

Aggie fan, Don Christiano, penned a letter to the editor of the Las Cruces Sun-News this week that made compelling points about the pricing scheme of NMSU Hoops tickets. Christiano points out the recent disappearance of kids/young Aggie fans at men's basketball games:

I urge you to count the number of kids at the next home game. They used to be at the game in droves, now when they have the pizza giveaway it's not even the kids yelling and screaming for it anymore, it's adults.

Christiano argues that the kidnapper is the lack of affordable ticket options for families.

"But what about the $5 tickets they offer?"

Don, knows about those. He also knows that those $5 tickets are only available to the first 200 fans who can make it to the Pan Am ticket office on game day between the hours of 8:30am-6pm. The writer makes the excellent point that most working families with children do not have the flexibility to make a trip like that in the middle of the day. On top of that, because of NMSU's budget cuts to marketing, their hands are tied in how they can promote these tickets. Unfortunately, this has led to many fans unaware of the $5 option at all.

But Don is not just venting. He tactfully recognizes the budgetary constraints the university and especially the athletic department are facing. What the writer is worried about is jeopardizing a generation of fans whose parents are not in a position to make a commitment at the current, steep price point. The writer graciously clarifies that he is not upset with NMSU:

I am just concerned member of the community who sees a need. I would urge NMSU to take a look at the ancillary impacts of their current strategy and work for a long-term solution for the masses.

The letter was published yesterday morning and it now has Aggie Nation in a frenzy. The message boards have exploded and I certainly have spent too much time thinking about this already. The truth is, I am in complete agreement with Mr. Don Christiano. Now I want to take you on a journey of why Don is right and why this conversation needs to be had.

Before I go a sentence further, allow me to put in the record that I think Mario and NMSU athletics have done a tremendous job, especially considering the resources they are given. The changes they have made over the years to re-engage the community, especially season ticket holders, has been amazing. I even supported the higher pricing scheme when it was first introduced. It was a great way to get the most revenue out of your diehard fans and to also fill the lower bowl.

But things change. Demand for Aggie hoops has changed. Leadership has changed. Branding for the program has changed. Live events have changed from the pandemic. We no longer live in 2013 where we are dealing with the fallout of a conference exodus and a coach who was extremely charismatic one-on-one but never connected with the fans like his movie star predecessor, Reggie Theus.

Expensive? What are we talking here?

Current men's basketball ticket prices*:

- $30 -$15

- $5 GA only <200 available on gameday, in-person pick-up.

- Season ticket prices range from $1,750 to $210 per seat. Most require the very reasonable Aggie Athletic Club membership of $150.

*You can look at the full map here.

I treated my family to a game two years ago and ended up paying $200+ for 10 tickets. I am an Aggie freak like all of you and even that was a painful purchase. Next Wednesday, November 24th, our Aggies play Division II New Mexico Highlands. It will cost a Las Cruces family of 5, $75 on tickets alone.

To put that into perspective:

I live in D.C. and can get into a Wizards game for $6 a ticket ($10/ticket with fees included according to Seat Geek) to watch them play my San Antonio Spurs. Now, I love my Aggies, they are good entertainment, but to the casual fan, there is objectively more value in watching the GOAT of coaches, Greg Popovich, take on Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, and Rui Hachimura in an NBA arena.

"But we are talking college!"

Ok, fine. I can watch the legendary Georgetown Hoyas play an ACC opponent for $8/ticket (fees included), also according to Seat Geek. That's Patrick Ewing coaching in a big time arena, and I am paying $16 for my wife and I to both get in.

The comparison is not perfect but the reality is that the lowest price Aggie hoops tickets ($15) are about twice as expensive as the $8 Georgetown Hoyas tickets. One plays in one of the wealthiest cities in the country, the other plays in one of the more disadvantaged.

Right now, Aggie Basketball is bougie. The average ticket is $22. The cheapest is $15. I am not including the $5 ones that you have to complete the American Ninja Warrior course in order to acquire. For a Las Cruces family of 4-5, with a median income of $40,973, that is a significant cost. I know my family could not have afforded the $1,260 for 6 season tickets at the lowest pricepoint offered. There was no way I could convince my dad to even buy us 2 season tickets for $420 (trust me, I tried). Aggie Basketball is an upper-class event. One can argue if that is good or bad, but one cannot argue that this is not the current state of affairs. If that's what we want, I think it sets us up for long-term failure. Here is why:

Becoming a fan:

Some of my earliest memories were peering down the rows of stairs at the Pan Am to the illuminated yellow floor. Squeaking tennis shoes and the roar of the crowd sound like home to me. I was utterly obsessed with the Pistol Pete noise meter above the northern scoreboard; my only purpose in life was to set his gun go off and fill the arena with smoke when our roars reached the rarely lit red lights at the end of the barrel.

The only way I was able to get into the building at all was that a co-worker of my dad's at the time was quite the plug on tickets. Any time my dad wanted, he would go see her and she would pull out a stack of GA tickets and deal them out to him like he was at the blackjack table of the Orleans in between Aggie games. No way would my parents have taken us otherwise. Those games in the early 90's had such an impact on me that 30 years later, I am typing this from Washington, DC in the middle of the workday. I am a season ticket holder, a 6th man member, an Aggie Athletic Club Member, and not to mention I run a fan blog on the side.

I know I am preaching to the choir here. My readers bleed crimson too. My point is that whatever it cost the athletics department in revenue in 1994 to get that stack of tickets into the hands of my dad's co-worker, they made up for it by cultivating a young fan like me (and you) who will give back his entire life. In fact, if a fan like me maintains their giving for say, 50 years, they could give away 13,000 free $5 tickets before they hit the amount that a fan like me will give over the 50 years. Ironically, for most of the Pan Am's existence, its capacity has been 13,071.

There comes a point where your high price point is eating at not only your future revenue, but your current revenue. Could we make more from hundreds more $8 tickets than our limited $15 ones? I think so. The hole we have to dig ourselves out of is one that an entire community now sees Aggie basketball as unaffordable. "That is not an option for us." can you blame them? Last time the showed up at the St. Mary's game they were told the cheapest tickets left were $20. My hunch is that we can increase revenue by adding a cheaper option and selling more tickets at that price.

I do not claim to be an accountant nor an economist. I do not claim to have all the answers. I am simply echoing a fellow fans desire to meet a need in Aggie Nation.

Both Sides

The argument for maintaining current prices:

- Record revenues in recent years

- The $5 ticket aren't even selling out (for most games)

- Establishes Men's basketball as a premium event

- Did I mention record revenues in recent years?

The argument for more affordable options:

- Higher revenue potential. My guess is our record revenues would have happened even with cheaper prices because the product has improved in the last 6 years.

- Inclusion of younger market

- Potentially higher attendance

Solutions (aka my two cents):

To me, this is largely a branding issue. It needs to be widely known that "Aggie games are affordable." I would say it is the opposite now. "Aggie games are UNAFFORDABLE." Do not get me wrong--Aggie hoops is a premium ticket. Courtside seats should cost a fortune. We are so lucky to have a division I program like this in Cruces. But the NBA and the Georgetown Hoyas are also premium, and even they have more affordable options.

The $5 tickets available on gameday is a good start. What if we made them available all the time?

What if we provided a middle of the road option of $8 for upper level seats? The problem is there is no widely known affordable option. People can't get to the ticket office between 8am and 6pm on gameday only to get these magical $5 seats. Keep that "promo" but also offer $8 upper level tickets at all times.

Know your audience. The Cruces market doesn't plan. We decide last minute to go to the game. We don't budget months in advance. We live in the Land of Mañana. We are not going to buy season tickets because we do not even know what we are going to order off of the Chope's menu currently in our hands. Give us cheap seats, cold $2 beer, Selena, good food, and tough basketball. That's what we want. And we will ride or die with you if we get it.

If you are not already, and you like to read my rants, be sure to subscribe.

More importantly, if you are fired up after reading this, the most important thing you can do is give. Buy season tickets, give to the AAC, join the 6th Man Club (email Don't just complain, do something.

Go Aggies!

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