Tigers Continue to Work On Fan Experience

Auburn's athletic director Jay Jacobs talks about changes for Jordan-Hare Stadium this season.

Auburn, Ala.--With the football season opener set for Saturday night vs. Washington State, Auburn's director of athletics, Jay Jacobs, said on Thursday that he expects the gameday experience to be enhanced for fans visiting Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"In March of 2011 we began to notice there were certain events that were not being sold out nationally," Jacobs noted. "We took some aggressive steps in making sure the gameday experience was as good as it could possibly can be."

Earlier this summer Jacobs announced there would be additional tailgate and parking spaces opened for the 2013 season for fans attending Jordan-Hare Stadium. He said there would be 2,000 more free spaces than were available last fall. The loss of tailgate and parking areas near the stadium has been an often voiced issue by Auburn fans in recent seasons.

After hearing complaints about the lack of quality with the food at AU sporting events, Jacobs said that led to a change for this season. "Now we have Domino's Pizza. There will be hot pizza at every concession stand. We announced just recently that we got Chick-fil-A in there. We announced Momma Goldberg's, which is a popular thing for the Auburn fans having them in there.

"Verizon has upgraded the wi-fi," he said. "It's not where it needs to be, but also we reduced the price of that about three dollars. We almost cut it in half so it's a little less expensive.

Jacobs said the wifi issue on gamedays is a problem around the SEC. "We have a gameday committee in the SEC. One thing that keeps coming up is connection and being able to connect and how everybody is battling that wi-fi problem that we all have. Fortunately this go-around AT&T has partnered with Verizon so those AT&T subscribers should also have a better experience on Saturday. Again it's not where it needs to be, but it will be helpful."

A source of frustration for some fans has been the lack of water fountains in the facility, forcing people to buy bottles of water at $4 apiece. This year fans can bring in an empty water container up to 16 ounces and fill it for no charge at one of 20 water stations located throughout the stadium.

The athletic director noted another suggestion from fans that is being implemented has to do with game tickets. "We are going to have scannable ticket and so what that means also is we also have a website where you can trade your tickets or email your tickets to someone to give them the flexibility so they wake up Saturday morning, they need two more tickets and (someone) is not going, how can I get his if I'm in Auburn and he's in Birmingham?

"We have that scanning and that ticket swap available so that you come in now, you scan your ticket. You are still going to have that same Auburn souvenir-looking ticket, but now if you decide not to use yours, you can email it to someone and print off the bar code and then walk into the stadium."

Jacobs said that he would suggest fans try to get in the stadium well before the 6 p.m. kickoff with the scanners being used for the first time. The gates open at 4 p.m., but fans who need extra time to get to their seats can enter Jordan-Hare Stadium beginning at 3:30 p.m., a new policy for 2013.

Jacobs said that his goal for beyond 2014 is to add more parking and tailgate areas close to the stadium to encourage fans to attend games rather than watch on TV. He noted that ticket sales are down 4.7 percent (approximately $600,000) compared to this time last year, something they are working on improving."

The athletic director said going into the season AU officials realized the need to improve the home crowds after not having a home sellout in 2012 as the Tigers struggled to a 3-9 record.

"We want people coming here and we didn't increase our ticket prices and people got an extra game," Jacobs said."That is why we got to keep adding parking places. We are not where we need to be."

A crew is shown working on Jordan-Hare Stadium preparing it for the Washington State game.

Jacobs noted that some of the seats in the stadium are still in high demand. "We are at an all-time high with our premium seats," he said. "Our scholarship level, we've sold more of those than we have sold in a few years. The tickets that we are down on are the lowest-level ticket that we have. Those are the low seats in the end zone, but you can certainly understand that would be. Why would you want to pay a TUF (Tigers Unlimited Fund) and the price of the ticket if you know you can walk out on the street and get them?"

Auburn is expecting a crowd of around 83,000 to 84,000 for the opener on Saturday with Washington State taking 1,900 tickets. "They are not bringing many people so we have extra tickets for the game. We certainly expect if we're successful on the field Saturday we will probably end up selling out."

Commenting on Auburn's new head football coach, Gus Malzahn, Jacobs said he is excited about what he has seen since hiring the former AU offensive coordinator away from Arkansas State in December.

"I couldn't be more pleased with Gus and our coaching staff over the last eight and a half or nine months," the athletic director said. "He is a fearless competitor and tireless worker. It's just amazing to me, not only his bright mind, but his attention to detail. Certainly the staff that he's brought together, I'm excited about it.

"There are so few days that I leave here and he is not still here and so few mornings that I get here and he's not already here. I don't know what it's going to be like out there on Saturday, but I know that we'll compete and it will be a fun brand of football. We're excited about that."

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