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Penguins set aside student tickets

Even though sales of season tickets and partial plans have been brisk, the Penguins will withhold at least 200 tickets per game to devote exclusively to the popular student rush program.

"We needed that division early so that we could at least preserve the program," Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said Tuesday. "The program's been around for 10 years, and the team was so hot last year it got a lot of notoriety, which was great."

Yesterday, the Penguins announced the discontinuation of sales on miniplans and that there would be approximately 2,000 tickets per game available to the public when individual seats go on sale Sept. 15. The Penguins capped full-season ticket equivalents at 13,500 and recently halted sales of the popular six-game and 12-game packages.

Of those 2,000 tickets, the Penguins will reserve at least 200 for the student program.

In previous years, any student with a valid ID could get in line at Gate 8 on game day and purchase an unsold ticket for a set amount, which this season will be $20. Since only approximately 82,000 seats remain for all 41 home games, the Penguins were forced to set aside tickets and assure availability for the student rush, something the team looks at as a possible investment in its future.

"It's been around long enough that we now know of a number of people who are season ticket holders who told us they started coming to games because of the student rush program," McMillan said. "You want to expose the game to younger people, and obviously they're not working, they can't afford season tickets, and you want to continue to grow your audience. The whole concept is, if they come in while they're young and they enjoy the game, they'll go into the job force, have families and buy season tickets, and we've seen that happen."

This season, if a game appears as though it will be sold out, the Penguins will hold a lottery for the student tickets 48 hours prior to the game. Students would send a text message to sign up, and 100 winners would be selected and eligible for up to two tickets apiece.

Winners of the lottery then would print their tickets at home and be charged delivery and processing fees.

"Last year the kids in the line were great, but if we only have 200 tickets, we don't want 1,000 students standing in line with 800 of them not getting a ticket," McMillan said. "It's just a fairness factor."

Tickets for the Penguins' two preseason games -- Sept. 22 against Detroit and Sept. 28 against Buffalo -- will go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m.

Penguins tickets will be available both online and at the Mellon Arena Gate 1 box office.

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