HARRISONBURG — The season following James Madison’s first football national championship, season-ticket sales grew.
Coming off its second national title, season-ticket sales are on pace to eclipse last year’s total, and also help JMU sell the most since 2011 when the expanded Bridgeforth Stadium opened.
“That’s our goal,” said Michael Carpenter, JMU assistant athletic director for ticketing and customer relations.
Carpenter said sales peaked when the school sold 7,500 in 2011. That number had been reached thanks to enthusiasm surrounding the stadium’s reconstruction, Carpenter said, and a positive trend beginning with the 2005 season.
After winning a national title in 2004, JMU sold 3,640 season tickets in 2005 — a 1,370 bump from 2,270 the previous season.
While season-ticket sales continued to rise after the Bridgeforth expansion, the upswing began to taper off in the years before the Dukes’ 2016 national championship.
But through last week, JMU has sold 5,890 season tickets for 2017. Carpenter said JMU is about 600 ahead of where it was last year at this time.
The Dukes ended up selling 6,194 season tickets for the 2016 season, which helped the school finish second in all of FCS for average attendance (19,844 per game) last year.
“Our staff really took an aggressive position in regards to getting information out early this year,” JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said. “They also tried to very broadly attack a lot of different platforms for the different ticket campaigns. I’d say there’s not a lot of necessary changes with the packages we offer, but getting the word to your constituents, donors and prospective buyers in a timely manner has really been paramount to our success.”
Renewals for season tickets began in February — only about a month after JMU knocked off Youngstown State 28-14 in Frisco, Texas, to win the national championship.
The school had an advertising campaign to promote the renewals.
Carpenter said the deadline for renewals was May 15, but even since then, sales have steadily continued with new buyers.
“If we keep cruising like this we’ll be over 6,000 in a couple of days, which is awesome,” Carpenter said.
The upward trend comes in a year where the school raised the price of season-ticket packages. In 2016, season-ticket prices began at $126. This year, packages start at $136.
“It’d been a while since we had direct increases, so I think this year with the prospects of what this team looks like, it’s an exceptional offers for ticket holders,” Bourne said. “I think with all things combined it was a good time to look at a slight bump in price, and we did that being cognizant of making sure that we were fair to ticket purchasers.”
Carpenter said games against East Tennessee State (Sept. 9), Maine (Sept. 23) and Richmond (Nov. 11) are the most likely to get sold out this season. East Tennessee State is JMU’s home opener, Maine is family weekend and Richmond, a rivalry game, falls on a weekend when students aren’t away for fall break.
As the clock ticks toward the start of the season, the Colonial Athletic Association has yet to announce a broadcast deal for the 2017 football season.
Though JMU uses its in-house MadiZone to stream games, if the game is not on television, fans might be more inclined to see it in person.
Bourne said while there’s nothing like a live event, he expects the CAA to announce a television deal soon.
“I do,” Bourne said. “I know they’re working and we have a president’s meeting [this week] in Philadelphia for the athletic directors, and I think shortly there after they’d release the [television] schedule.”