While season-ticket sales for Cal's 2011 home football games at AT&T Park are comparable to recent seasons at Memorial Stadium, a decrease of about 26,000 in seating capacity hasn't produced increased demand.
Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour said the school has sold about 26,000 season tickets, which is "very typical for mid-August." Cal has averaged around 34,000 season tickets in recent years.
"They are right on par with where we typically are," Barbour said. "We've got a crowd that likes to space out their season-ticket purchases right up to about the first game."
The Bears are playing their home games at AT&T Park this season because of renovations to Memorial Stadium. Cal is scheduled to move back to its on-campus facility next year.
Seating capacity for football at AT&T Park is only 45,000 compared with 71,799 at Memorial Stadium (that capacity will be reduced to 62,717 when the facility reopens). With substantially less seating this season, the athletic department was hoping tickets would be moving at a brisker pace at this point.
"I think we had hoped that with a smaller venue, and with more demand on the ticket, that it would have been accelerated a little bit," Barbour said. "Certainly, as we get closer to kicking off the season and ultimately kicking off the season at AT&T, we need folks to realize that they need to be here. But frankly, it's right on par with our regular season-ticket purchasing."
One possible reason ticket sales haven't moved faster is that prices were increased this season to make up for the loss of seats. Also, the Bears have only five home games. Cal opens the season Sept. 3 with a neutral-site game at Candlestick Park against Fresno State.
Season-ticket prices for the 2011 season range from $225-$1,500. Last season they went from $115-$1,560. But there were seven home games in 2010 compared with only five this season.
Single-game ticket prices this season range from $65-$80 compared with $35-$66 last year.
"Obviously, we need to keep up from a revenue standpoint," Barbour said.
Football ticket sales are the biggest source of revenue for Cal's athletic department. Last year, the school brought in $10,571,074 from football tickets, 15.2 percent of its total athletic department revenue of $69,345,926 for 2010.
If season-ticket sales at AT&T were to fall substantially, it likely would have an impact on the department's finances. Total football revenue in 2010 was $24,433,652, accounting for 35.2 percent of overall athletic department revenue.
Barbour acknowledged that there are shortcomings in playing a season away from Memorial Stadium, but she said any potential revenue losses were viewed as part of the cost of renovating the stadium.
Barbour and the athletic department also may be battling the change factor -- moving across the bay for a season may turn off some fans.
"Anytime you do something different, there are going to be pluses and minuses," Barbour said. "I think you've got some folks that don't want to come into the city and think it's a hassle to cross the bridge or take BART to come into San Francisco."
On the flip side, playing games in San Francisco could serve as an advantage to some fans who might want to make a full day of the experience. It also could attract new fans, perhaps from the Peninsula, who wouldn't otherwise make the trip to Berkeley.
Barbour hopes playing games in San Francisco helps with single-game sales.
"It's kind of a leap to go from not coming to games to getting season tickets, although we have seen some of that," Barbour said. "I think where we're going to see that is in single-game sales and people sampling Cal football because it is in San Francisco."
Cal's on-field performance also could impact ticket sales. The Bears were 5-7 last season -- the first losing season in coach Jeff Tedford's nine-year tenure -- and are picked to finish in the lower half of the six-team North Division of the Pac-12 Conference in many preseason polls.
If the Bears don't play better than expected, it could have a carry-over effect to 2012, whereas a winning season might create enough buzz to fill their renovated stadium.
"Things always go better when the team is playing well," Barbour said. "You have more merchandise sales, you have more people with smiles on their faces. But one of the things I love about Cal is there is a great pride in this program and the way they represent this university, and that doesn't change."
Barbour said the school is at about 60 percent of its target for its Endowment Seating Program, which covers the most expensive 3,000 seats at the new facility. The remaining tickets won't go on sale until after the 2011 season.