CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina’s record-setting football season last fall has fueled a 15 percent increase in season ticket sales to more than 31,000 for the 2016 home slate at Kenan Stadium.
“We’ve sold about 4,000 more than we did last year, so we’re very encouraged by the momentum,” Rick Steinbacher, UNC's Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Communications, said in a recent interview. “We’re not where we want to be yet, which is a complete sellout of season tickets, but based on the excitement the team generated last year, going undefeated at home, winning 11 games, winning the Coastal Division Championship, that’s translated into a lot of excitement and positive momentum this year.”
UNC’s home schedule opens against James Madison at 3:30pm on Sept. 17. The Tar Heels will also host Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, The Citadel and N.C. State. Season ticket holders also have first dibs on tickets for 2017, which boasts a strong slate of opponents in California, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami, Virginia and West Carolina.
“Our home schedule in 2017 is about the best I’ve ever seen,” Steinbacher said. “Our hope is to build on the momentum from last year, continue the positive trends that we’re in right now and get back to basically having season tickets be the only way you can get to every single home game in 2017.”
Carolina Ticket Sales, a new group that is a division of IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions, started up in late July and has played a role in roughly 1,000 season tickets being sold thus far.
UNC is also implementing a number of upgrades this season based on feedback from a survey to Rams Club members and fans in the spring. A $2.9 million project to install new LED boards around the perimeter of the upper deck seating area on the north and south sides as well as a new addition to the face of the Loudermilk Center in the east end zone was completed in late August and will provide a 600 percent increase in screen space. The expansive LED boards will allow for more in-game information, such as closed captioning, enhanced stats and scores and sponsor features.
Kenan Stadium concessions will now be handled by Aramark Sports and Entertainment, which is prevalent in professional arenas and stadiums such as NRG Stadium in Houston, the Verizon Center in Washington and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Aramark Higher Education, which primarily handles campus dining halls, previously handled UNC’s concessions.
“They’ve really invested a ton of resources in upgrading all of our concession stands,” Steinbacher said. “They’ve really brought a different mindset and a different approach to doing some fun, unique and creative things in our stadium. The idea is to make things fresher and hotter and serve it a lot faster.”
In addition to long-time staples such as Chick-fil-A and Bojangles, new concession offerings will include local favorites such as Merritt’s BLTs, Al’s Burger Shack, and Italian Pizzeria III.
Tailgating and traffic concerns, which have plagued the UNC game day experience for an eternity, were points of emphasis emerging from the spring alumni/fan survey. Steinbacher described the 2016 season as a “pilot year” for tailgating options, as the initial focus will be geared more towards large groups. If all goes well, UNC plans to expand its turn-key tailgating experience in future years to accommodate groups of all sizes.
UNC’s transportation and parking division has worked with the Town of Chapel Hill on a signalization project to improve traffic flow.
“Obviously, we can’t go from having two-lane roads to having five-lane roads,” Steinbacher said, “but I think they’ve done everything they can do to use technology, to use cameras and to use a centralized command where you will have people from the Town of Chapel Hill and people from transportation and parking all sitting in the same place looking at cameras, looking at data they can get about traffic flow in and out of Chapel Hill, and making real-time adjustments to try to make getting in and getting out as fast and easy as it can be.”
UNC will also offer dedicated pickup/drop-off locations for taxis and ride-sharing services such as Uber.