While the University of Louisville baseball team was preparing for their fourth trip up to Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series, the program made a somewhat surprising, yet inevitable announcement.
Starting next season, the traditionally cost-free games at Jim Patterson Stadium will switch over to ticketed entry, and will no longer be free of charge. Chairback seating will start at $10, with season tickets starting at $150. Group pricing will also be an option, and University of Louisville students will get in free.
Unsurprisingly though, there were the contingent of fans who looked at the move with disdain. After having free entry for all these years, having to pay for the games was viewed as a money-hungry cash grab by some, or some sort of betrayal to the fans.
While I knew that there would be a fair share of fans with this viewpoint, I saw more than I was expecting to. As I read the comments sections from the various media outlets reporting on the decision to charge admission, while a lot shared my sentiment of “it was bound to happen”, way more people than I was expecting voiced their displeasure to the change.
“Guess I won’t be going to the games anymore!”
“Home games are free on the ACC Network!”
After seeing way too much of this going on among fans, as well as debating this with a couple fans myself, I feel that this topic needs to be properly addressed. While I understand that going from free to $10 is an unexpected jump, this is not something that should be complained about.
When Jim Patterson made his seven figure donation to help with the construction of what would later be called Jim Patterson Stadium, one of the contingencies for his donation was that the baseball games be free of charge. While a couple fans were quick to point this out, that needs some proper context.
Prior to the completion of Jim Patterson Stadium in 2005, the Louisville Baseball program was anything but an elite program. Arguably, the program was barely even mediocre. From the program’s inception in 1909 through coach Lelo Prado’s last year with the program in 2006, the program had an overall record of 1,316-1,263-10. That’s a winning percentage of 50.8%, with the program just 53 games over the .500 mark. Not only that, but the program had been to only one NCAA tournament (2002), and the winningest coach in program history (Prado) was just 19 games over .500.
Enter Dan McDonnell. In his 11 seasons at Louisville, he has amassed a record of 508-201 with seven trips to the Super Regionals, four trips to the College World Series, and only missing the NCAA Tournament once. Coach Mac turned a completely irrelevant program into the newest perennial baseball powerhouse.
However, being able to sustain that success didn’t come without a cost. When the opening for head coach of the Texas Longhorns came open, a program who has won six national championships and is the winningest program in Division I history, McDonnell was a target for the position. Jurich immediately got to work to make sure this would not happen. He gave McDonnell a lucrative 10 year contract extension, loaded with retention bonuses, as well as making his base salary over $1 million.
Plus, if we’re going to continue to become the next baseball powerhouse as well as help Coach Mac get the best recruits that he can get, then they need the best facilities that we can provide. In addition to the $8.5 million Jim Patterson Stadium, the $20 million expansion in 2013 which added additional chairback seating, clubhouses and a brand new training facility helped progress the program even further. The proposed $9.5 million expansion coming after this season will help the program take the next step to becoming a baseball program on par with the teams that make regular visits to Omaha.
Success comes with a price, especially continued high level success. However, it’s not even a bad price. $10 to see one of the most elite teams in the nation play? Absolutely, and they haven’t even announced berm seating prices yet, just the chairback seating. Plus if you buy the $150 season ticket, that would average to around $4.54 per game across all 33 of UofL’s non postseason home games this season.
Think about it in context too. Football season tickets start around $200 and basketball season tickets don’t start until around close to $900. Basketball is literally SIX TIMES more expensive than baseball. Not only that, but beers at both PJCS and the KFC Yum! Center cost $8. Yet people don’t complain about that. They’ll happily pay for that.
People who complain about $10 baseball tickets are probably the same people who have no issue paying $900 for third deck basketball season tickets. If a small admission fee is enough to warrant you not going to anymore Louisville baseball games, then I question your baseball fandom to begin with. Don’t complain about a minor inconvenience, the baseball team and their success has earned it. It’s time that they earned your respect as well.