Scott Lane and the East Carolina ticket office can’t take things one game at a time. They have been planning to host a baseball regional and possibly a Super Regional for weeks. Their 2019 football season also is well underway.
Sellout crowds are anticipated at Clark-LeClair Stadium for NCAA Tournament games next weekend and that involves preparation. Lane is ECU’s Associate Athletic Director for Ticket Sales and Services.
“Behind the scenes, we had kind of been getting some work done back in April,” Lane said. “On Monday, May 13th, we actually put tickets on sale to our Pirate Club members, baseball season ticket holders and also ECU students. Those three groups, we kind of give priority to on any of our postseason events. They have a deadline of next Tuesday, May 28th, at 5 p.m., to get their orders in.
“What that does, for baseball season ticket holders, if they order, they’ll get their same season tickets. That will give priority to Pirate Club members and we also want to take care of the ECU students that want to come as well. They can order all-session tickets.”
The Pirates hosted a rain-drenched regional in 2018.
“If it kind of goes like it did last year, once we get through that priority deadline, last year we had sold out of all the tickets in the grandstand so when we went to general public sales on Wednesday, we only had tickets out in the outfield left,” Lane said. “That’s kind of what we anticipate again this year. Once we get the announcement Sunday that we are hosting and get the full field on Monday, we’ll kind of remind everyone they’ve got until Tuesday to get their order in. On Wednesday, we’ll start with general public all-session tickets and, if we have anything available for individual game tickets, those would go on sale on Friday.
“Last year, we sold out for the regional about five o’clock on Thursday afternoon of all-session tickets. Hopefully, it will be the same way this year.”
The host is required to hold 200 tickets for each visiting school. The other teams coming to ECU and their degree of fan support will impact ticket availability.
“We have to hold 400 tickets out per game,” Lane said. “On Monday, once we find out the schools that are here, I’ll reach out to those schools. They’ve got a deadline until Friday at like 10 a.m. to let us know their number. That’s kind of set by the NCAA. … Let’s say we have a team like last year, Ohio State, they only used 100 of the 200 tickets that they could have used. There’s an opportunity that those 100 tickets could be put on sale like that Friday morning.”
What is capacity of Clark-LeClair Stadium?
“It’s 5,000,” Lane said. “It’s almost on the nose. We’ve got about 3,000 tickets in the grandstand. We’re able to put another 2,000 out in the outfield (the Jungle).”
Season tickets sales up
Fans got behind the Diamond Bucs this season.
“This year, we had a really good year in our ticket sales,” Lane said. “We sold 1,671 baseball season tickets. That was actually our highest number since the 2010 season. … We have roughly 450 to 500 additional season tickets that are out there that are trade partners, media trade or IMG sponsor trade and some of our staff season tickets as well. We’ve got about 2,150, all told. We actually sold 1,671.”
The 2,150 all get an option on buying regional tickets.
“The (regional) tickets are the same price as last year,” Lane said. “For the chair back, it’s $90. The reserved bench back, which is every other seat in the grandstand is $72 and then the Jungle is $60. Those that are season ticket holders and Pirate Club members can purchase a parking pass in advance. That parking pass for the regional is $25. That’s in the lots right around the stadium like the Clark-LeClair, the Jungle, the White lot, Stratford Arms and we’ll overflow into Belk a little bit as well.
“If you don’t get one of those parking passes, we do have individual day parking. We’ll do cash at the lots on the day of. It’s $10 per day to park.”
The Pirates are in contention to be named a Super Regional site. Lane and staff will be ready if that situation develops.
“Whenever we put everything on sale to the Pirate Club members and season ticket holders, we also had Super Regional requests being taken,” Lane said. “What we do in both cases, we don’t charge anyone until we know for sure. The way it works for the regional, we won’t charge these requests that we’ve been getting in over the last two weeks, we won’t charge it until May 28th. The same thing on a Super Regional. We’ll have a deadline of that Tuesday, June 4th. At that point in time, the Super Regional timeline kind of flows the exact same as our regional as far as our ticket deadlines and everything. So they’ve got until June 4th to get those orders in. We’ve actually done a pretty good number of preorders already. For the regional, we’re already over about 1,700 and in the Super Regional, we’ve already taken in about 1,400 orders.
“We’re doing pretty good on both fronts. Looking back at last year, we didn’t take near as many Super Regional requests in advance. The more we can get in the better in case we are in that situation where we do host both. It would be kind of the exact same flow, timeline. Of course, the prices are a little bit different, a little bit cheaper (for the Super Regional) because its’s only a 2- or 3-game series compared to six or seven games in the regional.”
Empty seats at AAC
There are a lot of empty seats at the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Clearwater, FL, this week. Lane thinks the event would draw much better support if it was played at a campus site.
“I was here in ’07 when we hosted the Conference USA Tournament,” Lane said. “If I remember right, we had over 4,000 here for that. If it had been here this year, I think we would have been very similar to a regional-type atmosphere and regional-type sales with 4,000 to 5,000 if we were hosting that.”
That might be something for the AAC to consider going forward.
Football capacity increasing slightly
Capacity at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium has been listed at 50,000 in recent years. There will be a little more seating available with the completion of the new structure on the South side of the football facility.
“It’s about the same,” Lane said. “We lost a few seats on the South side. I think it was going to be a net of about 125 seats that we lost on the South side. With the (TowneBank Tower), we’re going to gain some seats there. We’re going to end up gaining, all said and done, about 750 seats once we get the numbers in. I’m actually still kind of waiting to get the final drawing and everything so I can build it in my side from the contractor, but it looks like we’re going to be about 750 net gain on everything.”
Football season ticket sales climb
A coaching transition appears to have affected football season ticket in a positive manner.
“Last year at our priority deadline, which was a month earlier last year, … we were at 9,700,” Lane said. “This year, we were over 12,000. Right now, we’re running about 2,500 ahead of last year, which is really good. Right now, we’re over 12,500 sold. Last year, we finished at 12,908. We won’t have any problem eclipsing that. We usually do from the deadline until the beginning of the season, you always do around 3,000 season tickets. If that holds up, hopefully, that will put us around that 16,000 range.”
There is a goal of 17,000 season tickets for football.
“That is a realistic goal,” Lane said. “We have to really push hard here this summer. … Everyone is really excited about Coach (Mike) Houston. We had a lot of people that had dropped season tickets that are now back because of the changes that have been made here. We know that it’s going to take a couple of years to build it back to where it used to be but at least the first year here it looks like we’re taking the right steps to kind of to get themselves back to where they should be.”
Last year, ECU had a home date with North Carolina to spur sales for a 7-home game package. There are six home games in 2019 and no compelling regional rivalry.
“It doesn’t really help us a lot that we don’t have that premium game, a State or a Carolina or anything like that to really push season ticket sales,” Lane said. “The fact that they are up as much as they are with the schedule we’ve got — that’s very encouraging.”
Season tickets are less expensive this year.
“We wanted to try to get it a little more affordable,” Lane said. “Ticket pricing had really kind of jumped up here the last couple of years. We really did a deep dive into our ticket-pricing structure and looked at what other teams across the American Conference were doing, what some of the peer institutions around the state and the range of what they were doing was. Last year, the chair back seat was $375. This year it’s $300. The rest of the lower level is now $240. A lot of those seats last year were $350. Our upper deck season ticket is now at $150. Then we also have what we called the Community Corner for a couple of years. Now we’ve got the Fan Section Endzone. We’ve got season tickets in there for $99. That’s not a price point we’ve had in quite a while.”
Parking passes for football
Pirate fans will have the option of buying parking passes for football.
“Something that we have done this year, it’s a department and Pirate Club decision here,” Lane said. “Based on your Pirate Club membership, a lot of people got free parking, a free parking pass. This year, now, you have to pay for parking. Our season parking passes are now $120. That’s something kind of new this year. But it’s what, across the country when we looked at it, just about every school does it that way. They charge for parking, but your Pirate Club priority and rank still kind of determines where you park.
“We do have the opening of the new Premium Lot. That’s a lot that’s got about 500 spaces in it. People can pay $1,000 for that. That’s got the hook-ups for cable and electricity. It’s pretty close here at the stadium. It’s one of our closer lots.”
Basketball season tickets
The return of Joe Dooley as basketball coach met with a slight increase in ticket sales and Lane is optimistic about support for hoops going forward.
“Last year, we had a bump from the year before,” Lane said. “We had dropped down in the 2017-18 season to 1,417 season tickets, which was the lowest in quite a while. Last year, we did rebound. We went up to 1,617 in season ticket sales, which is still lower than what we were hoping for, but at least we reversed the trend of dropping season ticket sales like we had been doing.
“We expect this year to kind of be higher than that. The excitement of what Coach (Joe) Dooley has been doing, the players he’s getting in here with his recruiting class, that will help turn that around. We’re going to try to get that number back up. We anticipate (basketball season tickets) going on sale in August or September of this year.”
Lane has been working in the ticket office since he was a student at ECU.
“I grew up in Goldsboro, came to school here,” Lane said. “I initially had started out as kind of a premed major. About halfway through I kind of changed courses and ended up getting my undergrad in finance from the College of Business here.
“During that time, I kind of decided that I wanted to work in sports. I had an opportunity. One of the Hall of Fame members here at East Carolina, Dave Thomas, was a friend of our family. He got me in touch with Mike Hamrick, who was the (athletic director) here at the time. I met with Mike Hamrick on my first day of my junior year and he asked me what I wanted to do. I said ‘Well, I want to be in your position one day.’ He said he started out in the ticket office and so he referred me to the ticket office back my junior year. I started out actually as a volunteer in the ticket office. That was back in 2002.
“I ended up being a student worker in the ticket office for a couple of years. When I went to graduate school and got my master’s, I was a graduate assistant in the ticket office for a couple of years. I worked under Faye Pass, who used to be the ticket manager. Then when Scott Wetherbee came in I worked under him and learned a lot from him. I got promoted to director of ticket operations when Ms. Faye retired back in 2007. Once Scott Wetherbee left, I took over his position, back in 2013.”
Lane said counterfeit tickets have not been a problem at ECU.
“The biggest issue we have is that we will have some people buy tickets for a football game at the last minute, maybe like a Friday or a Friday night or a Saturday morning,” Lane said. “What they’ll do, they’ll buy them online. They’re using a stolen credit card. Then they’re going out to the lot and selling the tickets. That’s kind of the fraud and counterfeit that we deal with, but we don’t have it as much as a lot of other schools have. We’ve got some measures in place to kind of help prevent that.”
Personal ticket requests
Lane does get hit up with ticket requests.
“Quite a bit,” he said. “Especially from being kind of local and being here a long time. I get hit up quite a bit. … A lot of people, I try to get them to be a Pirate Club member and buy the tickets.”