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Archive for Sunday, November 27, 2005

Winners, losers

The Kansas University athletic department’s gain from a home football game in Arrowhead Stadium was a loss for other businesses and university departments.

November 27, 2005

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The Kansas University athletic department made a nifty profit on last month's "home" football game that was moved to Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium, but a fair chunk of that money came at the expense of other people whom athletic officials should be going out of their way to support.

The department reported last week that it had made a $1.23 million profit on the Oct. 15 game in which the Jayhawks lost to the Oklahoma Sooners. That was about $511,000 more than the department cleared on a game against another high-profile KU rival, Missouri, which was played at Memorial Stadium.

KU sold 6,688 more full price tickets for the Oklahoma game than it did for Missouri, raising about $367,840 for KU, which accounted for a large piece of the difference. Adding to the net was the fact that playing the game at Arrowhead allowed the department to avoid paying a ticket surcharge that is used to help finance the debt for upgrades to Memorial Stadium. That surcharge raised $138,488 at the Missouri game.

So who will make up that difference? Doesn't the KU athletic department have a basic obligation to pay for upgrades at Memorial Stadium, one of its key sports venues? Moving a game to another location may be a way to shift that responsibility a little, but it doesn't seem like the right thing to do.

Another group the athletic department should be supporting also took a hit when the Oklahoma game was moved to Kansas City. The KU parking department sells 3,256 parking spaces on campus for home football games. The department lost out on about $32,560 in revenue for the Oct. 15 game. The Kansas City Chiefs kept all the parking and concessions revenue from the KU-Oklahoma game.

That financial legerdemain doesn't even begin to reflect the money lost to the community because of the outsourced home game. Local restaurants, motels and other merchants thrive on KU home football weekends. Those businesses support KU athletics in many ways, and many view the game's move as a betrayal of that support. Lost business also results in lost revenue from sales and lodging taxes for the community.

One of the primary rationales athletic department officials have put forth for moving the game is that it would enable many more KU fans in the Kansas City metropolitan area to attend. Why is that? It probably takes most K.C.-area fans at least as long to drive to Arrowhead as to Lawrence, and the larger stadium lacks the intimate atmosphere of the college arena.

Although athletic officials say they haven't yet made any decisions about moving future games to Arrowhead, it seems that many of those decisions are being made on the basis of what will net the most money for the athletic department. With that motivation in mind, businesses and fans who enjoy having Jayhawk games in Lawrence appear to be up against some stiff competition.

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