As feared, the lingering shadow of COVID-19 has resulted in a drop of nearly 20% in the renewal rate for both University of Hawaii football and Rainbow Wahine volleyball season-ticket sales as fans cope with the financial impact and uncertainty of the pandemic.
As of Friday, UH reported a 62.5% renewal rate for football and 69.7% for Rainbow Wahine volleyball compared with 84.5% and 87.2% respectively for the same point in 2019.
UH said 7,890 season tickets had so far been sold for football and 2,240 for Wahine volleyball, two of the athletic department’s biggest revenue drivers.
“Understandably and, as expected, football and Wahine volleyball season-ticket sales are below levels at the same time last year,” athletic director David Matlin said.
Until UH sports were closed down in March due to COVID-19 restrictions, expectations had been high for a rise in the sales of football and volleyball season tickets. The Rainbow Warriors were coming off consecutive bowl appearances in 2018 and ’19 and transitioning to a new coaching staff, factors which were expected to boost sales after years of decline.
Meanwhile, the Rainbow Wahine, who were second in the nation to Nebraska in attendance last season, according to the NCAA, are coming off a Big West Conference championship with a strong returning cast.
“While our fans have indicated that they are excited about the upcoming football and volleyball seasons, we appreciate that there still remains a fair amount of uncertainty surrounding the environment in which games will be allowed to proceed with fans in attendance,” Matlin said. “As a result, we have extended our due dates for renewing season tickets in the hopes that more clarity can be established to allow everyone to feel comfortable about the upcoming season.”
Matlin said it was still too early to assess the overall financial impact for the fiscal year that ends June 30.
“The usual challenge of forecasting year-end results is made many times more difficult with the fluidity surrounding COVID-19,” Matlin said. “Forecasting an accurate year-end net impact at this time is not possible given the continued uncertainty from COVID-19.”
Matlin said, “We appreciate the understanding and strong support of our fans for our Rainbow Warrior Football program and our student-athletes.”
On its website, UH said it is offering assurances to fans who have purchased season tickets. In the event a game is canceled and cannot be rescheduled or if it is played under conditions that prohibit fans from attending games at Aloha Stadium or the Stan Sheriff Center, season-ticket holders will be offered the following options:
Receive a pro-rated refund of the season-ticket purchase price for all impacted games, credit the pro-rated amount of the season-ticket purchase price for all impacted games toward 2021 season tickets in the same sport or contribute the pro-rated amount of the season-ticket purchase price for all impacted games to 2020-21 H-Club membership.
If the entire football or women’s volleyball season is canceled, season-ticket holders will also be offered three options: Receive a full refund of the amount paid, apply the full credit of the amount paid toward 2021 season tickets in the same sport or contribute the full amount paid to 2020-21 H-Club membership.