LEXINGTON, Ky. – Joe Sharpe has worked in the UK Athletics Ticket Office for a decade, but he has never seen anything quite like this.
Since Mitch Barnhart announced the hiring of Mark Stoops as head football coach, fans have been calling to either renew, upgrade add or buy season tickets in Commonwealth Stadium in unprecedented numbers.
“Since Tuesday and all day Wednesday, the phones were nonstop,” said Sharpe, UK’s Associate Athletics Director for tickets.
For UK’s six-member full-time ticket office staff and student workers, Sharpe said it has been “all hands on deck” since the Stoops news broke late Tuesday afternoon.
“We answered Wednesday alone close to 400 phone calls with an average talk time of about five minutes,” Sharpe said. “You can do the math on that.”
Figuring the arithmetic, 400 calls lasting an average of five minutes works out to 2000 minutes, or more than 33 hours. Phone lines at the ticket office are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, which means there was an average of more than four live calls at all times during the seven hours the ticket office was open. Sharpe reported that one ticket office employee spent five-and-a-half hours on the phone.
This week has been about a lot more than just answering phones though. In a matter of days, UK has revamped its offseason ticketing procedure on the fly.
In years past, renewal applications haven’t been sent to current season ticket holders until February. This year, the staff is putting that process on the fast track to get renewals out as quickly as possible.
In years past, fans calling about season tickets in late November would have been placed on a waiting list. This year, the staff has developed a plan that allows fans to reserve seats by putting down a deposit.
“That was a big transition because it’s not something you can do at the drop of a hat,” Sharpe said. “It takes some time and effort on everybody’s part to get that done. Tuesday night, staff was here until about 11 o’clock at night getting that new season set up in the system so we could be ready on Wednesday when the phones opened up at 9 o’clock and we’d have a plan in place to start taking orders.”
Come February, fans who have called for season tickets this week will be able to choose their seats for 2013. For the first time, they will be able to do it using an interactive seat map that UK is developing in conjunction with software provider TicketMaster.
“The most important thing people want to do when they buy tickets is they want to know where the seats are,” Sharpe said. “With an interactive seat map, they’ll be able to go on there and pick and choose and see what seats are available and actually know what they’re getting at the time of the purchase.”
Between all that has gone into giving fans an outlet for their football excitement and regular work for men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball hosting in the NCAA Tournament, this week has been somewhat of a “perfect storm” for the ticket office. This, however, has been a good kind of busy.
“All calls the past two days were all positive and truly enthusiastic about the new hire and excited about Kentucky football,” Sharpe said.
Sharpe and his fellow ticket office staffers are hoping the phone calls keep rolling in.