The Nevada athletic department gave its basketball fans a pre-Fourth of July surprise, releasing season-ticket renewals at the start of the long weekend, with some prices rising by more than 50 percent.
For the fourth straight offseason, the Wolf Pack hiked season-ticket prices, sharply in some areas, although that hasn't dampened the fans' enthusiasm for the product in recent seasons, judging by record sales. By comparison, Nevada froze season-ticket prices in football for the second straight season.
All 10 of the Wolf Pack's seating areas in basketball received prices increases, although unlike the previous couple of years, that largest increases (by percentage) came in the upper bowl. Nevada had largely held stable its cheapest tickets over the last couple of seasons, but that wasn't the case with the latest rounds of increases.
Plaza basket tickets went from $199 last season to $299 this season, an increase of 50.3 percent. Concourse went from $280 to $399, an increase of 42.5 percent. Those are the two cheapest options for season tickets at Lawlor Events Center. Assuming a 15-game home schedule, the norm for recent seasons, that cheapest season-ticket option of $299 per seat comes to $19.93 per game.
Courtside seats received the largest pure increase, going from $4,500 per seat to $5,000, an increase of $500 and 11.1 percent. Floor premier increased by $300 to $3,500 per seat. Lower middle increased $150 to $1,750. Lower center increased $150 to $1,550. Basket premier increased $90 to $1,200. Lower corner increased $100 to $1,100. Lower basket increased $99 to $999. And center concourse increased $45 to $499.
The increases come after a change in head coach as Eric Musselman left for Arkansas after four record-breaking seasons with the Wolf Pack. He was replaced by Steve Alford, who has had consistent success during his 24 seasons as a Division I head coach, which includes stops at Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA.
Alford is slated to make only $500,000 in each of the next two seasons, down from Musselman's $1 million annual contract with Nevada. But, in a letter to season-ticket holders, Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth said the increases were necessary to sustain the program at a national level.
"We’ve been able to achieve this record championship success while being in the lower half of Mountain West men’s basketball budgets (Editor's note: Nevada ranked fifth out of 11 MW men's basketball teams in budget, per the latest numbers)," Knuth wrote in the season-ticket renewal brochure. "Oftentimes, it’s much more difficult to ‘stay on top’ than actually ‘getting to the top.’ However, we are fully committed to sustaining our success but it will require, more than ever, the continued investment and support of our incredible community here in Northern Nevada. To meet the growing challenges of maintaining a nationally recognized basketball program, we wanted to let you know that we will be raising prices for most seating areas in Lawlor Events Center for the 2019-20 season.
"For comparison, our new overall pricing structure is still lower than some Mountain West schools. This is never an easy decision, but we feel it is necessary if we are to continue to provide the resources that our student-athletes and coaches need to compete for Mountain West titles and NCAA Tournament berths. Nevada’s men’s basketball program is now a national program; but it is truly Northern Nevada’s team. And if we are to continue our success, we must partner with our community to continue the momentum that will help us compete for championships every year."
The increases haven’t detoured most Nevada fans as the Wolf Pack’s season-ticket base has risen from 4,107 in 2014-15, the year prior to Musselman being hired, to a program-record 9,506 last season, an increase of more than 131 percent. Whether those fans will stick with the program in the post-Musselman era, with decreased outside expectations entering this season after starting last year in the top 10 in the nation, is one of the key story lines entering the season.
This year's renewals were released nearly two months after last year's renewals, which went out May 12, the same day McDonald's All-American Jordan Brown committed to play for the Wolf Pack. Over the last five seasons, Nevada's courtside tickets have risen from $3,005 per seat to $5,000, the largest hike inside Lawlor. Each lower-bowl seat has increased by at least $395 during that period. Here's a look at the overall increase in each section over the last five years.
The Wolf Pack loses all five starters from last year's team that went 29-5, including a share of the MW regular-season title. Nevada made its third straight NCAA Tournament, losing in the first round to Florida. Here is a look at Nevada's roster for next season.