Digital tickets here to stay, but ticket stubs remain prized souvenirs

Dayton Flyers ticket stubs from collection of Jeremy Bystrek, whose dad John started the collection.
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Dayton Flyers ticket stubs from collection of Jeremy Bystrek, whose dad John started the collection.

This will be second season with no printed tickets for Dayton Flyers games

For more than 30 years, my most treasured sports souvenir has sat in the bottom of a small safe, only rarely seeing the light of day. It’s an unused Cincinnati Reds ticket stub from Sept. 11, 1985, the date Pete Rose became baseball’s all-time hits leader.

My godfather, Rick Lefken, gave me the ticket a few years after that game at Riverfront Stadium. He was supposed to go to the game but couldn’t. He missed history but retained a connection to the moment because of the stub. In college, I once put the ticket on eBay — never intending to sell it — just to see what it would fetch. I lied to the winning bidder, who was willing to spend $150, and said it was destroyed in house fire during the auction.

I just couldn’t part with such a unique memento. I kept quite a few other ticket stubs: one from the 1988 All-Star Game in Cincinnati; two from the 1990 National League Championship series; and two beautiful ticket stubs, encased in glass, my grandpa Jim Leary passed on to me from the 1987 Final Four and Super Bowl XXI.

Explore» PHOTOS: Dayton ticket stubs through the years

My prized collection these days, of course, consists of press passes. I have hundreds of those from 25 years as a sports writer. I expect members of the media will continue collecting credentials, which need to be seen by security guards at events, especially if you’re sitting on the court or standing on the sideline shooting photos as I do.

Fans won’t get the same chance with tickets. The digital ticket era is here. In the summer of 2020, the University of Dayton announced it was switching from printed tickets to digital tickets. The NFL mandated a switch to digital ticketing starting with the 2021 season. Ohio State moved to all-digital tickets this season, too.

Few Dayton fans got to experience digital tickets last season because of restricted attendance during the pandemic. Everyone will have digital tickets this season.

Dayton Flyers ticket stub from Dec. 7, 1968, game against Bowling Green. Photo contributed by Dave Schindler
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Dayton Flyers ticket stub from Dec. 7, 1968, game against Bowling Green. Photo contributed by Dave Schindler

Here to stay

In an email to season-ticket holders earlier this month, UD explained the change: “Making this transition allows the UD Arena Ticket Office greater flexibility with the invoicing of season tickets, reduces contact points for fans and event staff, provides the ability to seamlessly issue and/or modify tickets for any game within hours, and will reduce the prevalence of counterfeit tickets in circulation and lead to a better game day experience for all Flyer Fans.”

In the same email sent to season-ticket holders, they were invited to attend an open house event at UD Arena this month to practice using their digital tickets. The open houses will be held from 5-7 p.m. Monday and Wednesday next week (Oct. 18 and 20) and from 5-7 on Oct. 26. Fans should RSVP for an open house by sending an email to flyertickets@udayton.edu.

The day when the sheet of printed season tickets arrive in the mail — a holiday of sorts in Dayton — won’t arrive. Instead, fans will use the Dayton Flyers Gameday app to access their tickets.

“Digital ticketing is here to stay,” Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “COVID accelerated it, but it’s kind of like boarding passes on airplanes now. It’s here to stay. Our job is to provide the best customer service we can with it, which we will, and anyone can call our ticket office anytime.”

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Representatives of the ticket office have even gone to people’s houses or places of work to show them how it works, Sullivan said. UD already has had practice with digital ticketing. Fans at The Basketball Tournament last summer and at high school graduations in the spring used digital tickets to enter UD Arena.

“There’s no doubt there’s going to be some early challenges,” Sullivan said, “but at the end of the day, our fans know we’ll get them in the building. We’ll work through it.”

In the new era, fans download tickets to their phone and have them scanned at the door. Sullivan urged fans to add the tickets to their digital wallet to expedite the process. UD can change the times of games on digital tickets if need be. That couldn’t be done with printed tickets mailed before the season. Fans can also use Ticketmaster’s Ticket Exchange website to sell or buy tickets and easily transfer them to other fans.

Dayton Flyers ticket stub from March 7, 2020
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Dayton Flyers ticket stub from March 7, 2020

Prized souvenirs

For convenience, digital tickets are hard to beat, but no one’s printing them out at home and pasting them in a scrapbook or throwing them in a big bucket. That’s where Jeremy Bystrek’s ticket collection was when I asked Dayton fans to send me images of their collections. His dad John collected tickets throughout his time as a Dayton basketball season-ticket holder.

Jeremy was nice enough to let me take photos of the tickets at his home in Columbus. He organized all the tickets on his kitchen table. I saw at one glance what makes ticket stubs so special. The design changed over the years. The fonts, the colors, the logos, all showed different eras of Dayton basketball. They brought back memories for Jeremy.

“My parents, back in the day, had 200-level tickets,” he said, “and we were in the middle of a row behind the basket. Sometimes my sister and I would cram in there with them. I’m sure our neighbors might not have loved it, but it seemed like a very friendly crowd. It was great to have been there during the heyday.”

Gary McCans was there during the heyday and on almost every other day. He served as UD’s ticket manager from 1969, when UD Arena opened, through the 2015-16 season. He understands the switch to digital ticketing, but it’s also sad to say goodbye to a tradition.

“It’s like anything else,” McCans said. “It’s probably not as important to today’s generation. They have other ways. I think the selfie is the new souvenir.”

Jeff Schroeder, a 1986 UD graduate who now lives in Lebanon, would still rather have a ticket in hand. He has a collection of tickets pasted into a photo album.

Schroeder plans to travel to Orlando to see Dayton play in the ESPN Events Invitational in November. He purchased tickets for the three games, and of course, they are digital tickets.

“I remember as a kid going to different events,” he said. “I’m from northwest Ohio. I’m a big Reds fan, and maybe once a year I was lucky enough to go to a Reds game. That became really special to me. I got the ticket stubs, and I just remember putting them on my bulletin board. The older I got, I started accumulating more tickets, and I shoved them in envelopes. I needed to get a bigger envelope, and the next thing I know I’ve got them in a shoe box. I don’t know why. I just started saving them over the years. I’m 58 now, and if we still got them, I’d still be saving them.”

Even if UD wanted to stick with printed tickets, it would be hard to do in this age, Sullivan said. Digital tickets have become as prevalent as metal detectors and bag checks. They’re a part of life in 2021. Maybe that will make the old ticket stubs more special. For this story, I put together a photo gallery featuring Dayton tickets over the years. Many fans sent me photos of their tickets. Everyone understands the switch to digital and yet misses the old days.

Dayton fan Courtney Deutsch did me a favor by summing up this whole story while sharing a screen shot of her phone, which showed a text message from the Dayton ticket office with a message reading, “Your University of Dayton Basketball digital tickets have arrived!”

On Twitter, Deutsch wrote, “I’m on board with the move to digital tickets — but this sure is a whole lot less fun than having my physical Dayton Flyers season tickets arrive in my mailbox.”

Dayton Flyers ticket stub from March 3, 1985, game against Xavier. Photo contributed by Matt Schwade
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Dayton Flyers ticket stub from March 3, 1985, game against Xavier. Photo contributed by Matt Schwade