After a hectic season of students standing in long lines for a chance to see a men’s basketball game, Loyola Athletics has yet again changed its student ticket policy for games. Instead of waiting in line, students can now claim their free ticket online in advance of the games to gain admission — if they end up not using their ticket and don’t notify athletics, they could be penalized.
Following the men’s basketball run to the Final Four in 2018, interest in the team increased. Compared to the 2017-18 — season where 1,107 attended the opening game — the 2018-19 season kicked off with Gentile Arena being packed with 3,795 people. Attendance was high the rest of the season resulting in long lines, seating frustrations and students be turned away from games.
This is the second change to the student ticket policy in the past year. The last alteration addressed the issue of students being denied free entry after the student section reached capacity, The Phoenix reported. The change allowed students to sit in unsold tickets.
Director of Marketing and Ticketing Brian Day said members of the athletic department met with student groups, student-athletes and other Loyola basketball fans for input about their game day experiences. One common theme — the entry process for men’s basketball games was tedious.
The new process, as mentioned in a press release, is as follows: On Monday morning of a game week, students signed up for the ticket email list will receive a message from Loyola Athletics. They will be instructed to follow a link where students can claim their free non-transferable ticket on a first-come, first-served basis. Claiming the ticket online will then activate their student ID for that individual game. Tickets will be available online until 24 hours prior to tip off.
Doors will open for all attendees one hour before each home game. If a student hasn’t claimed a ticket in advance, they’ll be directed to the ticket window to see if any tickets are available in the student overflow seats.
Although students will be able to claim tickets before the game, seating is still general admission. This means they’re guaranteed a seat in the student section, but the seat itself is determined on a first-come, first-served basis. Day said they still anticipate lines before games because students may be eager to get front row and center section seats.
The online tickets are shut down 24 hours in advance of tip off in order for Loyola Athletics to prepare for the student crowds.
“In the past we were making an educated guess, that were often way off,” Day said. “This way we will know exactly what to expect [and] our staff will be able to handle it.”
Day said this allows Loyola Athletics to open up non-student section seats to students if needed, because the department’s main priority is ensuring students aren’t turned away. It also allows them to close student sections to open blocks for alumni and other fans, specifically for lower attended games during winter break.
“If someone claims a ticket online and doesn’t return it, in theory they are taking away the opportunity for another student to be able to attend that [game].”
Brian Day, Director of Marketing and Ticketing
Student ticket-holders have until 24 hours prior to the game to notify the athletics department if they’re unable to attend, Day said. If the ticket isn’t returned in a timely manner and the student doesn’t show up to the game, they will be penalized.
Day said penalties escalate in severity. The first penalty for a no-show occurrence is a reminder email. After the second occurrence, the student loses ticket claim privileges for three games. After three times, a student loses the opportunity to claim tickets for the rest of the season.
“If someone claims a ticket online and doesn’t return it, in theory they are taking away the opportunity for another student to be able to attend that [game],” Day said.
Students expressed their frustrations with the previous policy on social media and even in the opinion section of The Phoenix. Sophomore marketing and information systems double major Anthony Campana published an opinion piece Oct. 2 calling for online ticketing. He said most students “aren’t looking to spend multiple hours standing in line” and when they did, they were often skipping class in order to make it to the game.
While Campana suggested a third-party distributor, the new Loyola-controlled system addresses the inefficiencies he said in his piece and ultimately creates the “level playing field for all Loyola basketball supporters” Campana said.
Junior Thomas Scully — who attended most of the games last season — said he has mixed feelings about the new process, but is ultimately hopeful because it allows him to go to more games. Scully said he had to miss games in the past due to classes running close to game time and lines starting hours prior to tip-off.
“It’s a way to make the student ticketing policy more organized and not have extremely long lines,” Scully said. “But I think there will be issues with if the technology fails and the release they put out wasn’t expansive enough and the change could fly under the radar.”
A frequenter of the front row, senior Jonah Blatt — also known as “His Holiness” — said he thought the process was going to make things easier for everyone involved and the new penalty system would make sure students aren’t misusing their tickets.
“I think that system’s fair because three-strike system is never a bad idea for that kind of thing,” Blatt said. “You forget a game every now and then, but if you keep claiming tickets and not going, you’re just kind of ruining it for someone else who wants to go. So it’ll keep people from … compulsively claiming tickets.”
The new ticketing process will be in effect for the duration of the 2019-20 men’s basketball season, but doesn’t affect any other teams.