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University cancels offer of free airfare to Shootout; decides to charge $103 for roundtrip tickets

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Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 10:09 am | Updated: 1:56 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

The University of Alaska Anchorage said today it will not provide free airfare for the Great Alaska Shootout after all.

It will charge $103 instead. 

The fly-free program for 1,500 Alaskans from communities across the state started last week.

That still means that anyone who buys a $127 basketball ticket package and pays $103 will be out only $230 for a roundtrip to Anchorage in November from various "rural" communities.

These include, for purposes of this promotion, Fairbanks, Valdez, Kenai, Homer, Cordova, Dillingham, Bethal, Barrow, Juneau, Petersburg, Ketchikan, King Salmon, Sitka, Kotzebue, King Salmon, Nome, Wrangell and Yakutat.

While this is an improvement over the plans to give free airline tickets in exchange for buying a $127 ticket for the 16 games, it is still a waste of  money.

The program should be halted by UA President Pat Gamble.

The $400,000 in subsidized air fares is to come out of a $2.5 million budget item slipped into the capital budget a year ago by the Legislature, later reduced to $2 million by Gov. Sean Parnell.

The program had become an embarrassment for some legislators who said they did not know that free airfare was part of the deal they approved a year ago.

The background material provided a year ago had few specifics, but it said that airline tickets would be provided to rural Alaskans at "greatly reduced rates." 

None of that was in the budget approved by the Legislature and governor, however. All the budget said was that $2 million would be provided for a "Shootout Partnership."

A total of 230 free roundtrip tickets to Anchorage were arranged last week under the fly-for-free deal and those will be honored, UAA said.

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