The UNLV Gameday Experience: What it costs and what it brings in


Justin M. Bowen

UNLV and Wisconsin face off to at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday for the season opener.

UNLV Football Fans

A sparse crowd attends the UNLV vs. Wyoming football game Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Launch slideshow »

A college football gameday is a big production with lots of moving pieces. And that doesn't even include the players on the field.

From the parking attendants at the farthest points of the gates around Sam Boyd Stadium to the cleanup crew that works late into the night, it takes a lot of people and finances to make a college football game happen. And in order to keep having them, a program must also try to generate revenue from the experience that makes it possible to do it all again for the next home game.

UNLV hosts its first football game of the season Saturday against Arizona at 7:30 p.m. The game is televised on CBS Sports Network.

To get ready we wanted to take a look at what it costs and what comes in on a typical UNLV football gameday. First up are the gameday operating expenses per Erik Schwarz, UNLV’s assistant athletic director of operations and facilities:


Game Operations

Game Officials (seven on-field officials) — $15,000

Instant Replay (replay official, communicator, technician asst. tech, sideline asst.) — $3,000

SNOA Officials (clock operators, chain crew) — $490

Medical (on-site EMTs in tailgate lots, fan and participant areas) — $1,233

Street Light Controls (Clark County and Henderson) — $1,605

Rental Equipment (tents, port-a-potties, carts, light towers, traffic signs, radios) — $5,020

Game Ops Student Employees (setup, in-game, postgame) — $1,200

Game Management

Front of the House (parking attendants, ushers, ticket takers, security, in-game clean team) — $18,000 to $30,000

Back of the House (video and sound operations, HVAC, plumbers, electricians, facilities workers, supplies, pregame and postgame stadium cleanup) — $12,619

Police Services (Campus & Metro) — $13,217

Total: $71,384 to $83,384

The variance comes from the expected crowd size. UNLV will hire more attendants, ushers and other front of house people when it’s expecting a large crowd. For example, this weekend that cost will likely be toward the top end while Western Illinois in two weeks may be more in the middle or toward the bottom.

Also added to the cost is the Rebels' stay at the East Side Cannery the night before home games. The team gets 35-40 rooms and three or four meals each game for $7,000 to $8,000, according to UNLV director of football operations Terry Cottle.

What this doesn’t show are the larger expenses — primarily scholarships and traveling — that take up large portions of the football team’s budget. Gameday revenues cover these game operations expenses pretty easily, but covering the rest and supporting nonrevenue sports is an uphill battle.



On a good gameday UNLV may bring in $400,000 in ticket sales, according to Rhett Vertrees, the Rebels’ associate vice president of finances. A bad game? That’s closer to $200,000.

To have as many good games as possible, interim athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy has spent a large portion of her time working on football ticket sales. One option through its partnership with IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions the Rebels have tried to push is $1,000 and $2,000 ticket packages — $10 tickets in bulks of 100 or 200 — to business groups.

Kunzer-Murphy also said UNLV has pulled the limit on student tickets and worked with the marketing department and student government to pass out tickets around campus and at orientation.

Student tickets are paid for by student fees. The Rebels athletic program receives an average of $112 per student annually, which ranks ninth out of 11 all-sports teams in the Mountain West. The conference average is $205.

The “easy” way to sell more tickets is more on-field victories. Short of that, the athletic department has attempted to get creative with incentives, multigame packages and even partnering with local seat-filler websites to give tickets away to Saturday’s opener.

Of course, victories are no guarantee in increased attendance. Even some winning teams find it difficult to battle against the appeal of watching every play on TV from the comfort of a sofa.


On gameday there are about 400 concessions employees, according to facilities executive director Mike Newcomb, who oversees Sam Boyd, Cox Pavilion and the Thomas & Mack Center.

Those employees are split up among 16 permanent stands plus portable stands in the concourse, mobile vendors walking through the stands and warehouse employees moving products where they need to be.

Their paychecks are covered by concessions sales, which come out to $75,000 to $150,000 in gross income, according to Vertrees.

“It’s been at the lower end of that lately,” Vertrees said.

The disparity comes from not only the crowd size — Newcomb said he calculates about $8 per ticket holder — but things like the weather conditions.

“If it’s really cold, then our beer sales are going to be down,” Vertrees said, “and that’s one of our most popular sellers.”

The opponent can also play a factor. For example, Wyoming fans are likely going to buy more beer than BYU fans.

About 50 to 60 percent of that gross income covers the cost of expenses — employees, food and beverage — and the rest is revenue for the facilities. That comes out to about $400,000 to $525,000 annual revenue.


The main parking lot at Sam Boyd Stadium is free. However, attendants can pay to park in a tailgating spot on the Star Nursery Fields north of the stadium.

This year the cost is back down to $20 after rising to $40 the past couple of seasons. Vertrees estimated that could bring in $5,000 to $6,000 per game. Not a lot, obviously, but every drop in the bucket counts.

Exactly what all these numbers add up to for every home game is up to you, or more specifically your decision to go to the game or stay at home. The power — or ticket, if you prefer — is in your hands.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at

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