students standing in line

Students stand in line and wait for instructions after being removed from Allen Fieldhouse after the student section overfilled on Tuesday, Jan 1.

After an incident involving an overfilled student section, Jason Booker, deputy athletics director for external affairs and revenue generation at KU Athletics, said in an interview with the Kansan that this was the first time an overfill of Tuesday’s magnitude had happened in 15 years.

“We were saying last night that we're just fortunate to be at a place that we have to work through these challenges versus hoping students show up or begging students to come,” Booker said. “We'd rather have to work through these problems than [be] on the other side of not having support for sure, so we're really appreciative and thankful for all that our students do.”

Booker, whose job responsibilities include dealing with ticket sales, said that for the Kansas vs. Kansas State game, more students turned out than expected.

Typically, only 35% of students who claim a ticket for any particular game show up, according to Booker. For a game with 5,100 tickets claimed, such as Tuesday’s game, 1,700 students would have usually shown up and redeemed their tickets.

KU Athletics can accommodate up to 3,000 student redeemers for any particular game, according to Booker. Still, they seated 3,400 students, or 70% of those who claimed a Kansas vs. K-State ticket, by pulling from holds and absent regular admission tickets.

“We try and get as many people into [Allen Fieldhouse] as we can for every home game because we don't want to have 1,000 empty seats when students don't show up,” Booker said. “So we try to make sure that we provide at least 3000 tickets for every game, knowing that our redemption rate is usually about 35%. And, because it was a big game, we had a lot of students that showed up.”

KU Athletics was forced to cut off admission at the Kansas vs. K-State game, which Booker said other universities have had to do this year as well.

“Obviously, if we have 5,100 students show up, we can't accommodate that in 3,000 seats,” Booker said. “So we encourage students, [since] we have a lot of camping groups, to get there early and make sure you're getting in line early to have the best opportunity to get in.”

Despite the issues campers had before the game, 59 camping groups signed up, according to the KU Camping website. Campers can camp out in Allen Fieldhouse starting days before the game to reserve spots in line and be the first to get into a particular game.

Booker says there are currently no plans to expand the student section from 3,000. Past cuts in the student section came as KU Student Senate zeroed out the KU Athletics fee in 2019.

Booker said he reached out to Student Body President Sadie Williams to keep her in the loop and keep a dialogue going. Williams said via text that she believed KU Athletics was taking the situation seriously and they would work to ensure this did not happen in the future.

“Compared to peer institutions who regularly just turn away students away at the door once they reach capacity, I believe it shows great merit from KU Athletics that they worked diligently leading up to and during the game to get as many students seated as possible,” Williams said. “Although I share the disappointment many students across campus feel, I am hopeful that this situation will not be repeated moving forward.”

Booker said they tried to make this right with students by handing out $10 ticket vouchers, enough for one student ticket, and $20 concession vouchers to affected students. KU Athletics was able to move some students from the volleyball arena, which was temporarily being used as the overflow section, to the actual arena.

“We got everybody in from Horejsi [Family Volleyball Arena], which I think was around 120 students,” Booker said. “We got additional tickets and got them in around, I think, was under the 16-minute timeout. So that was something we were really intentional about was working every detail and every ticket that we possibly could to get as many students in.”

Kansas will next play at home against Texas on Monday, Feb. 6. Camping for that game started Wednesday.