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PRICE increase not fazing fans

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ A 55 percent increase in the cost of Oklahoma football tickets isn't fazing Sooner fans.

Season ticket sales have been capped at about 64,500, or about 300 more than a year ago, ticket manager Tom Blubaugh said. A waiting list established last summer has reached 4,200.

``Based on our sales, I'd say feedback has been awesome,'' athletic director Joe Castiglione said.

Steve Lewis, a student at Rose State College, borrowed money from a friend to come up with the $225 to renew his season tickets, then used a student-loan check to repay the debt.

``I knew if I gave up my ticket this year, I'd never get it back,'' Lewis said.

Noble resident Keith Boydstun, a season-ticket holder for 15 years, said the university has fans ``over a barrel.''

``They know they can do it now,'' he said of the price increase. ``They couldn't have done it a few years ago.''

Season-ticket sales dipped below 50,000 in the mid-1990s. Each year, the Sooners dropped about 5,000 season-ticket holders and picked up only 3,000.

From 1989 ($110 for six games) through 1998 ($125 for five games), season tickets increased by $15 (though the package was $135 for seven games in 1991 and $130 for six games in 1995).

Bob Stoops' arrival in December 1998 raised enthusiasm, and ticket sales climbed by 9,000. Last year, sales were capped at 64,222; season tickets cost $145, but with one more home game, the per-game average was $1.83 less than in 1999.

This year's price increase breaks down like this: a $15 increase, plus an extra game ($35) and a $5-per-game surcharge ($30) for stadium renovations and expansion.

Even Sooner Saver tickets, special end-zone tickets introduced years ago to entice new buyers, have risen $80. Sooner Savers now cost $175 for adults and $135 for youth.

Although OU officials admit the price increase is significant, they say it isn't exorbitant. OU's $32.14-per ticket average ranks sixth in the Big 12.

``The fact that we're in the middle of the pack is a very strong statement,'' senior associate athletic director Jeff Long said.

Where are ticket prices headed? OU officials don't anticipate another large jump.

``If we can continue to generate additional revenue and offset some of our other expenses, we don't have to or want to place any more burden on season-ticket holders,'' Castiglione said. ``I'd hope if there are future ticket increases, they're nominal.''
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