In a sign of the times related to both the big-picture sports landscape and the realities of its own attendance challenges, the Gophers athletic department on Monday unveiled a new all-mobile “Gopher Pass” that will allow fans to gain access to all seven home games in 2019.
The pass costs $199.96 — an average of $28.56 per game — for a home slate that includes nonconference games against South Dakota State and Georgia Southern and a pretty nice five-game conference slate against Illinois, Nebraska, Penn State, Maryland and Wisconsin.
Passes must be purchased by Aug. 6, and the Gophers tweeted that there is “limited availability.”
Per a news release from the Gophers, pass holders will get a different seat to each game as long as it’s not a sellout. From the release:
Fans who sign up for The Gopher Pass will have a digital ticket delivered to their smartphone via a text message prior to each game. Fans will then be able to manage their ticket from their phone and will scan their digital ticket to gain entry into TCF Bank Stadium. The Gopher Pass allows for fans to link their accounts with other Gopher Pass users as well, which means those individuals will receive assigned locations together. There is also an option that allows fans to buy guest tickets and then easily transfer them. The Gopher Pass grants fans access to all seven home games in 2019, but if a game is sold out then it does not guarantee them a seat. In this instance, fans with a Gopher Pass will receive admission to TCF Bank Stadium and will be granted access to a standing room only area.
The set-up is similar to the Twins Pass sold at Target Field this year, though in that case there were different pricing tiers that guaranteed fans a seat for higher fees. The Twins debuted a standing room only pass in 2017 after their 103-loss season in 2016.
The Gophers haven’t reached TCF Bank Stadium’s 50,805 seat capacity for any game since 2015. Last year’s best crowd was 48,199 against Iowa. The average attendance in 2018 was 37,915 — just 75 percent of capacity and the lowest average since 1992, which was Jim Wacker’s first year as head coach when the Gophers were playing in the Metrodome.
Clearly the Gophers are looking for creative solutions to boost attendance and revenue, and this comes on the heels of cuts to some ticket prices for men’s hockey and basketball as well as the approval of alcohol sales at those arenas. Beer sales have been allowed at TCF Bank Stadium since 2012.
Whether this moves the needle much remains to be seen, but the pass is a more affordable full-season option than what is otherwise available. The cheapest full season ticket (available in two sections) for Gophers football in 2019 is $249, while a larger swath is available for $310. All other season tickets require a seat contribution and range between $410 and $1,500.
Combined with a boost from a better home schedule than 2018 and a strong finish last season that included the program’s first win over Wisconsin since 2003 and a 34-10 bowl game rout of Georgia Tech, the Gophers have a good chance to at least inch upward from last year’s low water attendance mark.
A giant leap? That’s up to P.J. Fleck and his players. Winning and excitement are the only true cures for apathy.