MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Mountaineer fans unable to attend this year’s Discover Orange Bowl can help deserving service personnel go to the game through the Veteran Tickets Foundation.
The Veteran Tickets Foundation is a non-profit organization first established in March, 2008 as a means to honor U.S. service personnel by helping them attend events throughout the country. Since then, the Veteran Tickets Foundation, based in Phoenix, has distributed more than 300,000 tickets in 48 states, servicing many different types of events, including college football bowl games.
Among the bowl games the Veteran Tickets Foundation has worked with include: Insight Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Military Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Bell Helicopter Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl, New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Belk Bowl, TicketCity Bowl, Capital One Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl and the Discover Orange Bowl.
West Virginia University first utilized the Veteran Tickets Foundation for last year’s Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., and approximately 400 tickets were distributed to deserving service personnel and their families for that game.
This year, Eddie Rausch, Veteran Tickets Foundation chief operating officer, is expecting many more service personnel to utilize tickets donated by WVU fans for this year’s Orange Bowl matchup against Clemson.
“I’ve talked to the public affairs officer there with the West Virginia National Guard and he has said repeatedly that they don’t really have any pro teams, so everybody there is big Mountaineer fans,” said Rausch. “I got an email from him (Friday) and he asked if there were any additional tickets because the requests were rolling in.
“We’re going to do our best to take care of all of their requests.”
Rausch said his organization is working with approximately 12 different bowl games this year to distribute tickets.
“Out of those bowl games, we’ll end up selling probably in the neighborhood of 22,000 tickets,” Rausch said.
What Veteran Tickets Foundation does is identify the bases closest to a particular event, or bases closest to a particular team, and then works with the public affairs department at those bases to make sure the tickets are distributed accordingly. For instance, in the Miami area alone, seven different units and bases have been contacted.
“We’ll narrow in on the bases locally because they will make use to most of the tickets, but we also reach out to the backyards of where those teams are coming from to see if there are some folks who want to travel around the holidays,” Rausch explained. “There is always that chance that someone is assigned to a base one place, but they may be visiting family over the holidays somewhere else and just want to make that trip. So we’ll reach out to those contacts at those bases and see if they can make use of some tickets as well.”
Initially, Rausch said the usage rate was about 50-55 percent before changes were made in the procedure to assure maximum usage.
“When we first started, for about the first year and a half, everything we did was at will call and it was completely free of charge, and we came to find out later that we were getting maybe 50, 55 percent utilization,” said Rausch. “The one that really broke the camel’s back was a circus event in Phoenix when we distributed about 200 tickets and only 110 of them got used. We had another 600 on the wait list and we could have easily made use of those other 90 tickets somehow.”
To rectify that, Rausch said a small processing fee was added to make sure the people who really wanted the tickets were going to use them.
“If we charge a little bit then the people who are asking just to ask won’t take the tickets and the people who really want to go will pay a $10 processing fee to make sure they’ve got four tickets to the circus so their family can go and enjoy a day out together,” he explained. “That was the easiest fix to make sure the people who were really going to use the tickets got them. Since then, our usage rate has climbed pretty close to 90 percent.”
Once the tickets are distributed to the bases, it is up to the bases to publicize and distribute them.
“We do communicate with our points of contact at the bases,” Rausch said. “We tell them, hey, even though those tickets are completely free, they do have value to the people there so make sure the people who are taking them they do get used, not only because there are other people who would like to use them, but because the people who are donating them want to see butts in the seats for one reason or another.”
Rausch said they encourage service personnel to go to the events as civilians to fully enjoy the experience.
“The idea is for them to enjoy a day out with their family and we want the whole family to be involved,” said Rausch. “We don’t want them to wear their uniforms. We know that they’re in it all of the time. We just want them to go out and have a good time and know that we appreciate their service to our country.”
Mountaineer fans wishing to purchase Orange Bowl tickets to help deserving service personnel can do so by logging on to WVUGAME.com
You can also learn more about the Veteran Tickets Foundation at their website VetTix.org