How many will attend UNM football's home opener? Here's the estimate

Sep. 8—Saturday, New Mexico football returns to Albuquerque — and the hope is that the fans will, too.

As of Thursday, UNM assistant vice president and associate athletic director Dave Williams told the Journal approximately 13,000 tickets have been distributed for New Mexico's home opener against Tennessee Tech. Given Albuquerque's history as a walk-up market when it comes to ticket purchasing, he's expecting a game day crowd of "somewhere in the 17,000s" with day-before or day-of sales factored in.

"Right now, roughly 80% of every ticket that is sold is bought digitally," Williams said. "Very few people now actually walk-up to our box office and buy the ticket. Their first choice is online sales, their second choice is phone call and their third choice is walk up and buy in person.

"On game day, online sales (are) still the most popular way of purchasing a ticket, which is great because it cuts down on lines to buy the tickets."

Of the 13,000 already distributed, Williams said 500 tickets allotted for players and coaches' guests are included in that figure. He did not have an estimate for other percentages of that figure dedicated to corporate sponsorships, regular fan purchases or other partnerships.

Williams added that 11,000 tickets have already been distributed for next week's New Mexico-New Mexico State game, annually the most attended home game on a year-to-year basis while still fitting the walk-up trend. Williams added that season ticket sales aren't up this season but remain steady compared to what the athletic department has seen since he joined UNM in 2019.

"Could be a few percentage points higher, could be a few percentage points lower, but (it's) a very typical number for Lobo football since I've been here," he said. "You try to get 80% renewed and you try to find 20% in new sales and that gets you to that pretty steady number."

For the home opener, promotions have ranged from usual efforts such as Cherry Fridays, a ticket giveaway at participating Albertsons the day before home games, to new methods, such as buy-one-get-one-50%-off ticket packages.

Williams said they've had traction selling Tennessee Tech tickets half-off if a fan buys corresponding tickets for another home game, an effort that fits UNM's overarching promotional strategy for 2023.

"What we realized this year is that our schedule really goes by the month: There are two home games in September, there are two home games in October and there's two home games in November," he said. "And so we're trying to really group those together — what kind of promotions for New Mexico State and Tennessee Tech together? Then we're gonna tackle San Jose State and Hawaii."

Then there's the lure of an enhanced in-game experience. Williams said UNM has been focused on providing an excellent experience in University Stadium "from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave," through new light shows, concession items and pyrotechnic features.

Winning doesn't hurt, either.

"What last year in basketball showed us and proved us (right) again, because we've always thought this, if you win in this town, they'll show up," Williams said. "So we plan on having a great experience with concessions, music, parking and ticketing, all those things that we can control. And if the team wins and continues to win, our attendance will show up more throughout the year."