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North Dakota State students cheer a touchdown against Robert Morris during their football game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

NDSU reduces student seats, adds more season tickets for football games

FARGO — North Dakota State students will have fewer available seats for football games next fall, a move that NDSU student body president Mason Wenzel said was unfortunate but in the best interest of both parties involved.

The students are giving up Section 16 at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, which is on the southwest side between approximately the 25- and 35-yard lines, or the closest student section to midfield. In return, the athletic department will be getting $100,000 less in student fees and students will have priority for standing room tickets.

"We definitely saw this coming," Wenzel said. "So to clear the air, what was the best way to address it? There has just not been as much (student) demand for tickets other than homecoming, but unfortunately it's the truth. When I was a freshman, I was fighting for tickets every game."

NDSU student fees contribute $1.46 million to the athletic department's $22.1 million budget, or about 6.5 percent. It's the lowest student contribution to athletics in both the Summit League and Missouri Valley Football Conference, and it's about to decrease even more.

"Students want the student fee to go down," Wenzel said.

NDSU has for years had a large waiting list for season tickets, with approximately 570 additional tickets being made available with the latest adjustment. The season ticket base last season was 12,100 in a facility that carries a capacity of 18,700.

Athletic director Matt Larsen estimates the additional season tickets will bring in revenue of around $500,000. Season tickets for Section 16 will be $307 per seat, with Team Makers booster club dues per seat ranging from $1,375 in the first 20 rows to $250 per seat in the upper rows.

Negotiations for the new seating arrangement were done between Larsen and deputy director of athletics Todd Phelps and Wenzel and student body vice president Katie Mastel. NDSU spokesperson Laura McDaniel said university president Dean Bresciani concurred with the decision.

Current season ticket holders have until May 1 if they want to relocate or request additional season tickets. Per usual athletic department policy, priority points will be used to determine the pecking order of the request.

NDSU students had a seating capacity of about 4,000. Generally, students have filled those seats early in the season, but attendance has waned later in October and November.

"What we've seen is a pretty dramatic reduction after the first two games," Larsen said.

He said there are games when less than 2,500 of the 4,000 student tickets were being used and that continued throughout the FCS playoffs. Postseason tickets for students cost $5.

"The ideal situation would be if every game was sold out," Wenzel said. "We thought this was the best way to handle it. That way both could benefit."

It appears some of the students hanging out at the Memorial Union didn't have much of a problem with the decision, either.

"I can see the economics of it why athletics would take those tickets," said student Casey Beauclair. "I'm not going to say the students deserved it but they certainly had it coming."

Jack Hastings, the editor of The Spectrum, the school's newspaper, said he hadn't heard much student reaction as of Wednesday afternoon. But he also said attendance at games has been an on-going problem.

"It happens every year, we write a piece on a call for action for students and it doesn't change," he said. "It just gets worse."

Erik Jonasson II, the incoming Spectrum editor, agreed and said he believes the games just aren't entertaining enough for students. NDSU won its nine home games last season by an average margin of 45-9, which helped create a mass exodus of students by halftime.

Declining student attendance at college football games has been a national issue, according to various media reports. NCAA figures show overall attendance at college football games last season had its biggest drop in 34 years.

"I'd like to see more students show up," said student Hayden Beyers, "but I understand why they took them away. I would be on a wait list, go to the game and some parts in the student section would be empty."

Wenzel figures students getting priority for standing room spots will result in a very minimal net loss of available tickets. His biggest concern is the loss of the rows in Section 16 below the suites.

Those were the first-come, first-serve premium seats that were taken by students who waited in line for the doors to open. In some cases, they slept overnight at the student entrance on the southside of the dome.

"I thought (losing those) would upset some students," Wenzel said.

Larsen said in a perfect world, 4,000 students would show up for every game because "they bring great energy and passion."

"In the world of higher education, there's a reduction in support of athletics," he said. "The tickets are a hot commodity and this is an opportunity to generate revenue where it doesn't have to come from the institution or student fees."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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