WSU aims to jump-start Qwest sales

TICKET SALES FOR Washington State's Sept. 12 game in Seattle against Hawaii are far behind the pace of sales last year when WSU faced Oklahoma State at Qwest Field. As of Monday, 11,321 seats had been sold for WSU vs. Hawaii, putting the game on track to rival the lowest attendance level the Cougs have seen since they started playing at Qwest in 2002. Still, there is optimism for a bigger turnout.

"The struggling economy is slowing ticket sales everywhere in the Pac-10 except USC, so the fact we're not on par with where we were at this stage in 2008 is not a surprise," says Dan Meyer, WSU's director of ticket sales and operations. "But we're not conceding anything. There are a number of factors that I believe will get those numbers up."

Foremost, he says, is that all signs coming out of spring practices point to a dramatically improved Cougar football team. "That's a message that will continue to sink in once the Cougs open camp in early August. It's a message that will help get the proverbial fence sitters to act."

Moreover, chances are slim that the game -- dubbed the Gridiron Classic -- will be televised. So the one and only way to see it is to be in the stands.

There are a variety of tactical quivers in the Cougars' sales pouch as well. Among them

  • WSU's advertising push -- mostly via radio -- won't start until August.

  • Some of the best seats in the house, the $55 club and $42 charter seats, are still available. "That's a big attraction to people who tend to consider buying late," Meyer notes. "And the limit on how many of the best seats you can buy is no longer in effect, so we're confident bigger groups of people may jump at the chance to sit together in prime real estate."

  • TicketMaster is launching a new value-pack ticketing option for the game that is scheduled to hit 700,000 email inboxes this week. This value deal offers four tickets for $50 or four for $80, depending on the seating preference.

    THE PACE OF QWEST sales this year puts the Hawaii game about 5,000 seats behind where things stood for Oklahoma State last year, and almost exactly where sales stood at this point in 2006 when WSU eventually drew 41,358 for Baylor.

    The Baylor contest marked the first time the Cougars drew less than 50,000 at Qwest. There was a rebound in 2007, when 46,290 fans showed up to see WSU trounce San Diego State. And then last season against Oklahoma State the 50,000 mark was surpassed again.

    WSU's highest attendance level at Qwest was in the inaugural game in 2002 when the eventual Pac-10 champions, led by Jason Gesser, drew 63,588 for a victory over Nevada.

    Meyer noted that for every 5,000 fans WSU attracts to the Qwest game, the athletic department generates roughly $150,000 in revenue. "The difference between drawing 41,000 fans vs. selling out at 67,000 is financially significant (about $750,000), so we're doing everything we can to get people out to the game -- and we hope fans are helping spread the word to their friends," said Meyer.

    For tickets or more information, call 1-800-GO-COUGS or visit wsucougars.com.

    NOTABLE QWEST NOTES:

    • Kickoff time has yet to be set, but the window between 2 pm and 4 pm is considered the most likely, according to Meyer.

    • WSU is again offering a ticket philanthropy program in which people can buy $7 seats at Qwest that will be given to the Boys and Girls Clubs and to Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Last year, more than 1,100 low-income youngsters in Western Washington were able to attend WSU's Qwest game. Cougfan.com contributed 100 tickets to that effort. To join the effort, contact the WSU Athletic Ticket Office at athletictickets@wsu.edu.

    • Fans concerned with traffic and parking at Qwest will have the option of riding to the game via Sound Transit's Sounder train, which offers service from Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila, Everett and Edmonds.

    • 5,600 seats at Qwest are set aside for WSU students. They are made available to students in August and figure to be sold out in short order.

    • Since its inception, WSU's annual game in Seattle has evolved into a week-long celebration of the broader university. In the days leading up to the game, numerous university events take place in Seattle. The football game is the capstone to a week-long, community outreach effort in the school's single-biggest market for alums and future students.

    • The Washington Beef Producers are once again the official sponsors of the Gridiron Classic.

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