Facing criticism, UAA to charge $103 for airfare to Shootout

Beth Bragg

A program providing free airfare to Anchorage with the purchase of a Great Alaska Shootout ticket package has been revised due to negative public response to the state subsidy.

Instead of getting a free roundtrip ticket from one of 18 airports in Alaska, fans will be asked to pitch in about $100, the university announced this week.

For $230, a person will get a tournament package with tickets to every Shootout game plus roundtrip airfare to Anchorage for the Thankgsiving week tournament.

That's an increase of $103 from the original offer, which cost $127 -- the price of the ticket package plus a processing fee.

Kristen DeSmith, UAA's assistant vice chancellor for university relations, said the change was made due to public feedback.

"Lots of people had heard feedback from the public, concerns about public money being used," she said. "We wanted to revise the program in a way that might correct the concerns.

"...We will still provide people a real opportunity to get (to the tournament), but we will also listen to the feedback and ask people to provide a little more of their own money."

The airfare subsidy is part of a $2 million capital budget appropriation given to the Shootout during the 2011 legislative session.

The money, the result of a request by Haines lawmaker Bill Thomas, will be used over a three-year period to enhance the 35-year-old Shootout, which has lost its luster in the last decade or so due to the emergence of higher profile tournaments in the Lower 48.

Some of the money will be used to lure marquee teams to the tournament. Some will be used to promote the tournament. And up to $400,000 of it will be used for this year's airfare promotion, UAA athletic director Steve Cobb said last week. Cobb said the airfare promotion was created to make the Division I college basketball tournament more accessible to Alaskans outside Anchorage.

"Our goal was to find a solution that addressed the concerns of the public while still honoring the intent of the appropriation," chancellor Tom Case said in a press release. "Providing rural Alaskans a way to attend the Shootout in Anchorage at reduced rates was part of that intent, as well as stimulating the local economy and building greater national visibility for the tournament."

The original airfare promotion was announced Friday, June 8, and tickets went on sale at noon the following Wednesday. By either Thursday night or Friday of last week, the promotion was suspended due to public response, DeSmith said.

The revised promotion became available Tuesday morning at goseawolves.com.

About 230 tournament packages were sold at the original $127 price, DeSmith said. Those tickets will be honored.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

Anchorage Daily News