Last year's circus at Roberts Stadium charged $19, $21 and $24 for reserved seats and $12 for pre-circus general admission tickets, but this year's numbers at the Ford Center are $21, $26 and $32. General admission tickets were $16 until 10 p.m. Wednesday and $19 thereafter.
Brian Ball, public relations manager for the circus, attributed the higher ticket prices to a $2 per ticket facility fee charged by the Ford Center and extra costs incurred to move there after 55 years at Roberts.
But Ford Center Director Scott Schoenike said Roberts Stadium charged the Shriners the same $2 per-ticket facility fee.
"To be honest, all events pay $2 facility fees, if not more," Schoenike said. "The (Evansville) IceMen pay a $2 facility fee, the U of E basketball pays a $2 ... it's pretty common across the nation. It's a little bit of showboating from the Shriners."
Apprised of Schoenike's remarks, Ball said Roberts did charge a $2 parking fee per ticket "at one time."
The Shriners expect the 78th Hadi Shrine Circus, which kicks off at 3 p.m. today, to attract between 40,000 and 45,000 people over the course of its four-day, eight-show run.
Crews worked throughout the week to set up for the shows.
The event, which is expected to cost about $300,000 to put on, is the major fundraiser for the Hadi Temple. The temple doesn't disclose how much the event brings in. The money helps the Shrine maintain its facility and present events such as the Shriner's Fest, which the Hadi Shrine expanded to take the place of the annual Freedom Festival on the riverfront.
Higher ticket prices aside, Shrine and Ford Center officials agree the Ford Center's 230-foot long and 85-foot wide floor allows for a better show."Roberts was always a three-ring circus, but the problem was (circus acts) were right on top of each other," Schoenike said. "The floor space here is longer and there's more square footage on the floor, so they can spread those acts out a little bit more."
Ball noted that the Ford Center's scoreboard retracts, which he called a big advantage.
"It's completely out of the way, which we were never able to do at Roberts, so it actually gives us more fly space we can work with to get all our riggings and ropes and everything up," he said.
"We're actually able to add additional lighting -- more true theater or stage lighting – up overhead instead of having everything on the floor like we've done in the past. It gives us a little more definition, a lot more color, more sensation for people to see."