Jim Hayford has a marketing pitch for Seattle University men’s basketball fans.
“What I’m saying 10 times a day to anyone who will listen is the beautiful thing about Seattle U and us playing at Climate Pledge Arena is if you’re not a Kraken season-ticket holder, then you’re not getting to see an NHL game most likely,” the Redhawks coach said. “If you’re going to go to a concert there, it’s going to cost you a lot of money.
“So everybody in Seattle listen up: If you want to go see Climate Pledge, come see the Redhawks, because you can get in there for under 20 bucks.”
The least expensive ticket for the Kraken’s home opener Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks starts at $390, according to Ticketmaster.com.
Meanwhile, tickets to SU’s first game at Climate Pledge Arena on Nov. 14 against Idaho State range from $14-$67.
“What we’re doing is taking this world-class arena and putting it together with Division I basketball,” Hayford said. “We’re making it affordable for everybody in the community. If you ask me, that’s a great deal.”
It also partly explains why Hayford left Eastern Washington after a successful six-year stint and took over the Seattle U program in 2017.
“Go back to that introductory press conference, I was asked, ‘Why come here?’ and I said better city, better school and better arena,” said Hayford, who has compiled a 64-55 record at SU during his four-year tenure. “For three years, I only had two out of three. It’s huge for our program to be back downtown and inside the new arena.
“The Redhawks Center is a great home-court advantage, and it’s a great place to watch basketball, but in all honesty it’s not customer friendly. So we’re going from that to arguably playing in the nicest college basketball arena in the country on eight nights. It’s a billion-dollar place. It’s a huge difference.”
Seattle U will host eight home games at Climate Pledge Arena with a capacity for roughly 10,000 fans in the lower bowl. SU’s remaining 11 home games will be held on campus at the 999-seat Redhawks Center.
“What I’m really excited about is I think we can take a significant attendance jump,” Hayford said, noting the Redhawks attracted 2,270 fans for their final game at KeyArena on Feb. 17, 2018, a 73-63 overtime win against New Mexico State.
The season-high attendance in 2017-18, Hayford’s first year at Seattle U, was 3,242. Before his arrival, Redhawks home games against cross-city rival Washington routinely attracted 6,000-7,000 fans to KeyArena.
“Quite frankly, we haven’t seen anything close to those numbers since I’ve been here, and that type of atmosphere is what college basketball is all about,” Hayford said. “From a recruiting standing point, the new arena is huge. A lot of recruiting comes down to facilities. We’re giving these guys the opportunity to play in a world-class facility that they dreamed of growing up.”
Since SU’s return to Division I in 2008 following an 18-year absence, many Redhawks fans have urged the 130-year old private Jesuit university located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood to build an on-campus facility that seats 5,000-7,000.
“That’s the next big priority,” said Hayford, who estimates a new arena would cost $100 million. “Right now, I’m super hopeful, with a new president and some key community members getting more involved than ever before. There’s been highest-level meetings on this subject since I came to town. I smell a new, fresh urgency on campus about the issue.”