The days of discounted athletic tickets for Kansas University faculty and staff are at least temporarily over as KU battles a tightening budget.
KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Lariviere on Wednesday sent an e-mail to faculty and staff announcing that the university would not offer the 20 percent discount to employees and KU retirees.
“We cannot in good conscience lay off additional employees in order to maintain this discount,” Lariviere said in the e-mail.
In 2008-2009, the discounts cost the university $451,000 — about the equivalent of 11 or more employee salaries, the e-mail noted.
The change also eliminates the discount that faculty, staff and retirees receive for Lied Center tickets.
Reaction among KU employees was mixed Wednesday.
“It is a discount that is going to be missed,” said Nancy Kinnersley, president of KU’s Faculty Senate. “But it is important to put it in perspective of saving jobs, too.”
Until about two years ago, the Kansas Athletics Corp. provided the discounted tickets, and the money for the program did not come out of the general university budget.
But university and athletic department leaders reached a mutual agreement that KUAC would start paying all utility bills for athletic facilities, and the university would start paying for the cost of the employee discount program, KU spokesman Jack Martin said.
Martin said the university is not considering asking KUAC to once again pick up the cost of the discount program.
“The university and KU Athletics have worked hard to get KU Athletics to where it is self-sustaining,” Martin said. “This wasn’t a situation where we felt it would work for either party to go back on that agreement.”
Associate Athletic Director Jim Marchiony said the athletic department could not pick up the cost of the discount program, but said the department would continue to allow faculty and staff ticket holders to sit in preferred seating locations without the requirement that they become donors to KU Athletics. The department also offers a special half-season ticket package to faculty and staff that is not offered to the general public, Marchiony said.
KU Athletics generated about $53 million in revenue for the 2007-2008 school year, according to the department’s annual report. But Marchiony said expenses are near the $53 million mark as well.
In 2007-2008, about 2,100 athletic tickets were purchased under the program. At the Lied Center, about 780 tickets were purchased at a discount, and retirees were provided about 2,000 free tickets to selected performances, Martin said.
Lariviere’s e-mail said KU hopes to restore the discounts as “soon as the budget situation improves.”