Pitt AD eyes record season-ticket sales for 2016 football season.
February 9, 2016 12:25 AM
University of Pittsburgh athletic director Scott Barnes speaks to reporters during a meeting at his office in Oakland.
Pitt's Tyler Boyd can't come up with a reception as he's defended by Phillipie Motley during the 2015 Blue-Gold game at Highmark Stadium. This year's spring game will return to Heinz Field, the team announced.
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes never has been shy about his lofty aspirations for the Panthers’ football program under coach Pat Narduzzi, often saying the ultimate goal is a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Monday, he outlined an ambitious short-term plan when it comes to Pitt’s ticket sales at Heinz Field for the 2016 season.
“Our goal is to set an all-time record for season tickets at Heinz Field,” Barnes said Monday in a meeting with the media.
Pitt Athletic Director on schedule, ticket sales
Pitt Athletic Director Scott Barnes talks to reporters about the school's football schedule and ticket sales. (Video by Andrew Rush; 2/8/2016)
“You sometimes are challenged when you come out with a goal and you don’t meet the goal. We feel really comfortable in stating this.”
The exact number of season tickets — which went on sale Monday to the general public — Pitt is shooting for is 53,775, which would just eclipse the Heinz Field record set in 2003.
So far, Barnes said Pitt has sold around 15,000 season tickets. Most are renewals, but Barnes said that around 3,000 are new season-ticket orders. To reach their goal, the Panthers want to sell 10,000 new season tickets and renew 93 percent the 2015 holders, both of which would be upticks from last year..
The biggest bump so far came last week, when Pitt announced its 2016 recruiting class. Barnes said Pitt sold 4,500 tickets in that week alone, pushing the Panthers well ahead of where they were at this time a year ago.
Looking ahead, Barnes said he hopes to see a similar bump around the time of Pitt’s spring game April 16. The game will return to Heinz Field for the first time since 2011, with free admission to the public.
Narduzzi expressed a desire to hold the game at Heinz Field in 2015, in his first season, but that was not possible due to ongoing construction at the stadium. Instead, Pitt played the game at Highmark Stadium in Station Square, and the Panthers drew a standing-room only crowd of 5,325.
“If we’re going to be what we want to be, that number has to be multiples of that for a spring game,” Barnes said.
“Highmark is a great venue, but it’s not big enough for what we want to be.”
Barnes has also circled the unveiling of the athletic department’s rebrand under the Pitt script logo as a touch point for offseason ticket sales. He didn’t offer much in the way of specifics, other than there would be an event in “mid-May” to celebrate the changeover.
“Utilizing those windows when there’s a peak interest in your program, I think, is strategic and something that we want to make sure we’re nimble enough to do,” Barnes said.
The recruiting class, spring game and uniform redesign, according to Barnes, are all part of the positive momentum the Panthers are enjoying under Narduzzi.
In terms of ticket sales, it also helps that Pitt enjoys an attractive schedule this fall, highlighted by the resumption of the Penn State rivalry Sept. 10. Barnes said Pitt has focused on giving exclusivity to previous customers and alumni first to avoid too many tickets falling into Penn State hands, but, to a certain extent, it’s unavoidable.
“Absolutely, any time you have a rivalry, you have folks that will buy, and we’ll sell that game out,” he said. “There’ll be a lot of single-ticket purchases there, but we expect the lion’s share of that to be Panther fans.”
Season-ticket holders and purchasers of three-game “mini-plans” will have the first crack at that game, and Barnes admitted he’s “not sure” if single-game tickets ultimately will be available.
“It’s going to depend,” he said. “I think there’s a chance there could be a few.
“Right now, we’re focused on season [tickets] and, again, obviously with that lofty goal ahead of us, I think we’ve got to spend the bulk of our time there.”
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.
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