When he got his annual renewal notice for Ohio State men's basketball season tickets, Matthew Fletcher didn't hesitate to renew his four seats for the 2019-20 season.
It wasn't until after he had gone through the process that he realized a meaningful game was missing. After the Buckeyes made a celebrated return to St. John Arena last season, this year's game at the program's former home was not included in the full-season package he had already purchased. Tickets for that game, Monday night against Kent State, were instead available by request for an additional fee.
When Fletcher, 39, a Powell resident, called the ticket office, he was told that because 30 percent of last season's season-ticket holders didn't attend the game, the decision was made to make this year's game a separate purchase, while the cost of season tickets reflected one fewer game.
It's part of what Justin Doyle, Ohio State's associate director for premium seating, told The Dispatch is part of the ongoing effort to create the best possible atmosphere for the game.
“We thought to ourselves what we'll do is instead of forcing people who didn't want to go to that game — because obviously there's some people that didn't want to go to that game — we'll just not include it in the season-ticket package,” he said. “We gave them that option.”
The Buckeyes had a sellout crowd of 13,276 at last year's 89-62 win over Cleveland State in a game played the night before the football team hosted Michigan. It was met with near-universal acclaim by those who attended the throwback game, complete with retro jerseys, scoreboard graphics and pregame music. The empty seats weren't overtly noticeable, Doyle said, because they were spread out across the arena. And once season-ticket holders were accounted for, roughly 3,000 seats were made available to the general public.
There are 7,580 season-ticket holders this season, Doyle said, and as of Friday the university had sold nearly 7,000 total tickets for Monday's game, while seeing a late uptick in sales to students. Season-ticket holders who opted to add the St. John game to their ticket package had the opportunity to select their own seats.
Fletcher, a three-year season-ticket holder, said the initial emails about season tickets could have been more clear, and his ticket agent apologized and issued him tickets without charge for the game.
Doyle said the ticket office has heard from multiple ticket holders with similar feelings.
“I thought the environment was fantastic last year,” Fletcher said. “(My ticket agent) did admit the error in marketing that the game wasn't included in the season tickets, but still stands by the change for better atmosphere.”
Ultimately, the hope is to have as many bodies in seats as possible when the game tips off.
“The goal was to try to create the best experience for the student-athletes, and at the same time give fans that really want to be there the chance to use those tickets,” Doyle said.