Utah gymnastics will not have fans at the Huntsman Center in 2021, marking another lost revenue stream

Utah gymnastics yielded more than $600,000 in ticket sales during the 2018-19 season

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fans cheer on Kari Lee as she competes on the beam for the Utes, in Gymnastics action at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, Saturday, March 2, 2019.

The University of Utah gymnastics team is not going to have fans at its home meets this winter, and that is going to cost the athletic department six figures in revenue.

In an email sent to gymnastics season-ticket holders on Sunday afternoon, which has been obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune, the fact no fans will be allowed at the Huntsman Center is outlined, citing Pac-12 COVID-19 protocols across all sports.

The email falls in line with the Pac-12 having recently updated its policy on fan attendance in all sports, extending it beyond the original Jan. 1 mandate until further notice.

“The Pac-12 announced today that in light of the continued negative COVID-19 trendlines in Pac-12 communities and in the interest of health and safety, it has made the decision to extend the current prohibition on fan attendance at Pac-12 sport competitions taking place on Pac-12 campuses past January 1 and until further notice,” the league announced in a statement. “Student-athlete families will continue to be permitted to attend sport competitions if and to the extent allowed by local public health and campus authorities and in accordance with NCAA guidelines. Each Pac-12 member school will determine its family member attendance policies on these bases.”

The football program played its three home games at Rice-Eccles Stadium with no fans, and both basketball programs have followed suit this season at the 15,000-seat Huntsman Center.

Per the email, season-ticket holders have three options for their 2021 payments. Apply them to the 2022 season, donate the money towards the Dumke Gymnastics Center expansion project, or request a full refund. The athletic department has already been soliciting donations towards improving Dumke, its 20-year-old, once-state-of-the-art practice facility for some time.

Women’s gymnastics has been a monstrous draw at the University of Utah for nearly four decades. In fiscal 2019, which is the last publicly-available athletic department financial report, the sport yielded $616,421 in ticket sales across five home meets during the 2018-19 season.

The 2019-20 season, which would fall under the yet-to-be-released fiscal 2020 report, saw the Red Rocks average a nation-leading, program-record 15,273 fans per meet. That figure also marked a new NCAA gymnastics record for season-average attendance.

Utah recorded three official sellouts of 15,558 last season, plus a season-opening draw of 14,417 vs. Kentucky. Those four home meets last season were the four-largest gymnastics crowds of the season in NCAA women’s gymnastics.

Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said in August that his athletic department was facing a fiscal budget deficit of between $50-60 million if no football were played. The Utes were able to play five games during 2020, so that $50-60 million estimation will ultimately be less, but is thought to still be a substantial figure.

Using fiscal 2019 to make a rough estimate, Utah will likely not see approximately $20 million in ticket sales in fiscal 2021 between football, both basketball programs and women’s gymnastics.

Utah gymnastics full schedule, home or otherwise, has yet to be determined. The fourth-ranked Red Rocks repeated as Rio Tinto Best of Utah champions on Saturday night, defeating No. 17 BYU, No. 23 Southern Utah and Utah State.

Utah, now up to No. 3 nationally, will take on No. 2 Oklahoma on Sunday afternoon in Norman. The meet will be shown nationally on ESPN2 with a 3 p.m. start.