Illini ticket office continues to be hot spot as semester, football season begins

By Stuart Lieberman

The Fighting Illini ticket office became a hot spot last fall, as the 2007 football season culminated in a highly coveted chance to see the Orange and Blue play in the Rose Bowl. But the hot ticket did not stop there, as the office started receiving requests for the 2008 season on Jan. 2.

University classes have yet to start for the fall semester, but ticket office employees feel like it is already midway through football season and students are eager for the season to start.

“It really took the Ohio State game to get people fired up, and it’s going to remain that way this season,” said Jake Hendee, junior in ACES and former member of the football team. “Nobody likes to see prices rise, but it’s worth it paying those prices now.”

Although season ticket prices increased by $17 in 2008, students have not ceased flooding the ticket office. By June 5, Block I student section had already sold out its 1,800 season tickets for the 2008 season. This was the earliest date in the school’s history that the section has sold out. Home games against Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio State have already been sold out, as well as the season opener against Missouri in St. Louis.

Hendee purchased Block I season tickets back in April to ensure his seats for the season.

“Football is the most exciting sport on campus and Block I is the best place to see it from,” he said.

The Illini begin their season in St. Louis in the Arch Rivarly game against Missouri, another program on the rise, and one that has also seen a great increase in ticket requests this summer. Ticket sales for the opening match up increased dramatically in comparison to previous years, and officially sold out on July 22.

“We had more than double the tickets but sold out in half the time,” assistant ticket manager Brian Amentt said.

At stubhub.com, tickets for the Arch Rivalry are selling for up to $600 per seat on the upper concourse, and up to $12,500 for a suite on the goal line.

With Block I season tickets already sold out, the ticket office is quickly selling its remaining student vouchers. Amentt said it will make things easier for the office come mid-season. For now, employees are guiding fans toward the Eastern Illinois University and Louisiana-Lafayette games.

The Illini’s first opponent is seeing a similar trend.

Josh Murray, assistant director of media relations for Missouri athletics, said Missouri is expecting a record crowd for the season opener in St. Louis on Aug. 30. He said the Illinois match up is right up there with the Kansas game as Missouri’s hottest ticket for the 2008 season.

“The level of excitement here is higher than its been in a long time,” Murray said about both the Tigers and Illini. “We’re not going to be able to take care of everybody, though.”

Student season tickets are selling for $130 for the Tigers, $53 more than a student season ticket package to see the Illini at Memorial Stadium. However, Missouri did not advertise its ticket packages this summer as the Illini did, instead waiting until classes commence again to do so. Amnett sees the early season hype for tickets as the beginning of a new era for Illini sports and hopes this football season will just get the ball rolling.

“We still have basketball right around the corner,” Amnett said.