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Bison tickets will be tough to come by

FARGO -- Finding home football game tickets after one Division I Football Championship Subdivision title was hard enough. Two straight has only added to the hype.

Put it this way: If you don't have a ticket secured for next fall's North Dakota State football season via the season-ticket system, your only other option is to log on to the NDSU ticket website at 8 a.m. CDT Aug. 1 and hope for the best.

It's twice as nice for the athletic department, or double the headache for the ticket handling administrators, depending on how you look at it.

"I don't think anybody anticipated where we are today," said Pat Simmers, the NDSU senior associate athletic director and executive director of Team Makers booster group.

Season tickets in the 18,700-seat Fargodome are capped at 12,100, which was approximately what was sold last year. NDSU took applications through April 15, and after all the renewals were completed, it had 1,364 additional requests.

Of that number, only about 65 were able to be accommodated, meaning about 1,300 seat requests were denied.

As in past years, tickets are distributed through a priority points system that takes into account a variety of factors like years of membership and the amount of donation, either to the athletic department or the university.

Team Makers membership is required for season tickets between the 10-yard lines on both sides of the dome.

Perhaps more telling of the interest in Bison football: Simmers said some fans will make "significant" donations to Team Makers, and yet not have enough priority points to get a season ticket. He declined to specify what a significant gift is.

"Here's what I'm telling everybody," Simmers said. "Every year, we'll have some inventory at some point, and our inventory and your request will eventually cross each other. For me to tell you when that is ..."

To help find ticket space, NDSU put a cap on the number of tickets each account is allowed to purchase at 12. Anybody who currently buys more than 12 is grandfathered in and not tied to the new clause.

So far, it appears the customers have been patient with the lack of tickets.

"I think after the success we had last year in selling out, a lot of people expected the renewal rate to be real high again," said Josh Hemingway, NDSU's director of tickets. "I think people anticipated they wouldn't be available this year."

About 1,600 single-game tickets will be available for each of the six home games. Last year, five games were sold out on Aug. 1 and the other -- Prairie View A&M (Texas) -- sold out one day later.

"I've been around here 40 years," Simmers said. "It amazes me. It's phenomenal, it really is."

Tickets aren't the only game-day spots in demand. Simmers said all reserve tailgating spots on the two main lots west of the Fargodome are full. A limited number will remain available on a drive-up basis on game day.

"We're looking to expand the reserve tailgating," Simmers said.

The hope of the athletic department is the interest in football eventually spills to basketball once the Bison Sports Arena is renovated. That's what happened at Wisconsin and Nebraska, Simmers said.

"We'd like to build a basketball clientele," he said. "I think it will be a stand-alone fan base once we get a shovel in the ground with the new facility. Part of it will be a lack of access to football."

Looking long term, Simmers said the situation may fluctuate, but probably not much.

"We've had three losing seasons in 50 years. Are people going to bail out?" he said. "God forbid we have a 3-8 season, but every industry has a market correction. Ours historically just don't last that long."