Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

KU wins 1st round of ticket squabble

Premium seating charge for longtime supporters allowed to stand, for now

July 31, 2003


Efforts to derail plans to force 121 Kansas University men's basketball season-ticket holders to put up $5,000 each to hold on to their seats suffered a setback Wednesday.

Douglas County District Judge Jack Murphy denied Topeka lawyer Brock Snyder's request for a court-ordered delay.

"This thing isn't over," said Snyder, who has had season tickets for fifth-row seats in Allen Fieldhouse since 1968. "We're still going to pursue this."

Snyder said he would continue his lawsuit and was considering a separate antitrust lawsuit.

Representing himself and 81-year-old Frank Godding, Snyder filed a lawsuit June 30, asking the court to block the plan.

But for the court to do that, Murphy noted in his three-page decision, there had to be a "substantial likelihood" Snyder's arguments would prevail in subsequent hearings.

Snyder's motion, the judge ruled, lacked that likelihood.

Murphy cited Wichita State University v. Marrs, a 2001 case in which a season-ticket holder challenged the university's linking ticket availability with donations. The Kansas Court of Appeals ruled season tickets were licenses solely controlled by their respective athletic corporations, which are free to require upfront contributions.

KU attorney Sara Trower cited the same ruling in her arguments against Snyder's motion during a Friday hearing.

KU season-ticket policies are set by the Williams Fund, the fund-raising arm of the KU Athletic Corp.

Last month, Williams Fund officials notified 121 season-ticket holders in prime seating areas of the fieldhouse that if they didn't contribute $5,000 for each pair of tickets by today, they would be assigned less-desirable seats.

The notices were sent to season-ticket holders who were not members of the Williams Fund or who had fallen behind in their annual contributions to the fund.

Since the notices were mailed, said Williams Fund director Jay Hinrichs, seven season-ticket holders have accepted less-desirable seats, five have said they wouldn't renew their tickets, and 36 have yet to resolve the issue.

The numbers don't add up to 121, Hinrichs explained, because "the 121 figure has always been a fluid number" and others have been "brought up to date," a process that for some involved pledging $5,000 for the coming year.

"Each of these cases is being handled on an individual basis," Hinrichs said. "The vast majority of the people we're dealing with have said they understand what we're trying to do -- and that's raise more money to support 550 student athletes taking part in 18 sports here at KU."

Godding, who has had season tickets since the end of World War II, called the arrangement "blackmail."

Dave and Margaret Shirk, both in their mid-80s, plan to give up the pair of season tickets they've had since 1940.

"I guess we won't be going -- they say they need more money, and we don't have it," Dave Shirk said.

In the past 51 years, the Shirks, of rural Lawrence, have missed two home games.

"We're sure going to miss all our friends at Allen Fieldhouse," said Shirk, who was captain of KU's 1938 football team.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.