Boise State struggling to sell tickets for home opener against Troy

Boise State fans look on in disbelief in a 2015 home game against Air Force in Boise. (Greg Kreller/Idaho Press-Tribune)

BOISE — The first afternoon kickoff at Albertsons Stadium in nearly four years apparently wasn’t enough to help boost ticket sales.

Boise State athletic director Curt Apsey said Monday that the school still has between 9,000 and 10,000 ticket available for Saturday’s season opener against Troy.

A crowd of 26,000 would be their smallest in several years. The last time the Broncos didn’t have at least 30,000 for a season opener was 2006 against Sacramento State, when they drew 29,647.

“They are not where we want them,” Apsey said. “…That’s lower than we’ve been in the past, without a doubt.”

Troy went 10-3 last season and is predicted to finish second in the Sun Belt Conference. The Trojans had a strong offense last season and return more than 97 percent of their production, the most of any team in the country.

Boise State is just an 11-point favorite from odds makers in Las Vegas for Saturday’s 1:45 p.m. kick off.

“The one thing people maybe aren’t taking serious enough is who we are playing,” Apsey said. “Troy won 10 games last year and a bowl game and this might be one of the best Group of Five matchups.

“We have our hands full on Saturday, and this place needs to be shaking. Come out and support our team because they are going to need it. Bronco Nation has always been there for us and I’m hopeful we will see it again on Saturday.”

USA TODAY ranked the matchup as the 7th best among all games this weekend and Troy is one of the better non-conference teams to come into Boise in recent years.

Labor Day weekend, 90-plus degree temperatures and ticket prices were among the reasons fans listed on the Blue Turf Sports Facebook page as reasons for the low ticket numbers.

Apsey sent an email to Boise State fans Monday to push ticket sales, saying “we need you” in the stadium on Saturday and this season. In the letter Apsey said, “Your purchase of tickets makes us better by providing resources for critical things like recruiting, player development and first-class facilities, all of which allow us to compete and succeed at the highest level.”

Boise State has a rare day game for the home opener and the next two home games start at 6 p.m. Fans have complained in recent years about the number of home games starting after 8 p.m. as reasons why they didn’t purchase tickets.

The Broncos have also added several things to the fan experience inside Albertsons Stadium for 2017 including new food options, a DJ, more fireworks and pyrotechnics. They also plan to show better replays and more stats on the video board.

“We listened,” Apsey said. “We didn’t answer every single concern that they had, but I think we addressed a few of them and I think they will be noticeable on game day.”

Apsey highlighted those changes in the letter and during a session with reporters Monday afternoon in which he reiterated the need to boost ticket sales.

Boise State also is likely to see season ticket sales decline for the fifth straight season, according to Apsey. The Broncos have seen a steady drop each year since a record 24,109 season tickets were sold in 2012.

The program had close to a 2,000-ticket decline last season (19,600) from 2015 (21,500), and apparently will see the numbers drop even more this fall. Boise State said Monday they were “a couple thousand” down from last year’s total.

“We’re about 90 percent of what we budgeted,” Apsey said. “We’re down. We’re not where we want to be, without a doubt. We have some gains we have to make in that area as well.”

The drop in season ticket sales is somewhat surprising considering the earlier start times. Boise State’s first three home games will all start at 6 p.m. or earlier. Fans in previous years listed late kickoffs as one of the main reasons for canceling their season tickets.

Apsey said ticket sales traditionally pick up the week of the first game, and he expects sales for both Saturday’s game against Troy and season tickets to go up this week.

“This week is always a big sales week for us,” Apsey said. “I’m hopeful they will keep doing what they need to do and we’ll get this place full on Saturday.”

RENOVATIONS COMING TO EAST SIDE OF ALBERTSONS STADIUM: Apsey confirmed Monday that plans are being finalized for upgrades and renovations to the East side of Albertsons Stadium.

Boise State hopes to announce plans in the next few months that will include new entrances and exits, new restrooms and concession stands and possibly new seating areas in the lower level.

“It’s necessary,” Apsey said. “It has to happen in my opinion. It’s not a choice. There’s a difference between a need and a want and that’s a need for us.

“I think we’ll change some of the seating on the bottom, we’re certainly going to blow out the back so that we can improve our concessions and restrooms and the way people come in and out.”

Asked for a timeline, Apsey said, “it depends on how long it takes them. It might have to be something that’s maybe in two phases depending on what we try and do, but certainly we’re addressing it right now and I’d like to have a plan of what we want to try and do going forward before the end of this football season.”

ALCOHOL SALES NOT A TOPIC OF DISCUSSION JUST YET: Apsey was asked if allowing alcohol sales in the general seating areas inside Albertsons Stadium may be a way to try and help boost attendance.

Boise State and Utah State will be the only Mountain West schools in 2017 to not sell beer to the general public inside the stadium. The Broncos currently allow alcohol sales only to those in the Stueckle Sky Center.

“We really haven’t discussed that much to be honest with you,” Apsey said. “It really doesn’t concern me that we’re the only two schools left (to not sell it). Maybe that makes us unique. … In regards to beer in the stadium, that’s just not something we’re comfortable addressing right now.”

Apsey later said “at some point it’s probably going to need to be addressed, but I don’t know exactly when that’s going to be.”

BRONCO BITS: Apsey said the football team is “close” to announcing future non-conference games. The Broncos have openings in 2019, 2020 and 2021. “We’ve got an announcement about a few different things, so we’re just kind of waiting to tidy everything up.” … Apsey said the athletic department will announce the start of a national search for a baseball coach in the next week or two, and the goal is to have someone hired by the end of the year.

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