Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Will Penn State Season Ticket Holders STEP into the Future?

Penn State Athletics calls it the Seat Transfer and Equity Plan, or STEP.

The basic idea of STEP is to require a donation to the Nittany Lion Club based on the location of the seats in the stadium. Seats on the 50 yard line will cost more than seats on the 10 yard line or the end zone, for example.

There will also be a move of the entire student section to the South End Zone, and the installation of ADA seating in certain locations in the stadium. So some current season ticket holders will be forced out of their seats as a result and asked to select new seat preferences. The east stands will also have a lot of seats open up as a result of this student section move, and the propensity of students to stand throughout the game won't disrupt their view of the south end zone, which is the case right now.

There is also a transfer option where a season ticket holder can transfer current seats to a family member or any other individual (not a business). There will be a one-time transfer donation associated with each seat. That transfer donation also depends on the location in the stadium, and for any of the seats, it's quite expensive. The person to whom the tickets will be transferred will also be required to make annual Nittany Lion Club donations on the proposed per seat basis and agree to the new plan.

The plan can be found at the following url:

If you are a current Nittany Lion Club member who purchases Penn State season tickets, the plan is also being sent to your home. You will need to read this carefully and make some decisions based on your individual situation, paying careful attention to the time-lines.

At least Penn State is giving everyone time to think about it. It's a lot to absorb. You may want to have a lawyer sitting beside you when you read the plan! It's quite dense with some legal language included.

How severe the impact is depends on where a person's season tickets are currently located. For example, if I had four seats on the fifty-yard line, and had been paying only a minimum donation for those four seats for years (in 2010 it would be $400), then I will be facing a very steep price increase. I would have to donate $2400 per year to retain those four seats. I may as well donate $2500 per year and get a reserved parking space. And if I can't afford that and want to transfer those tickets to someone else, there will be a huge one-time donation for that transfer.

Or I can request a move to another section of the stadium where the donation level isn't as high. But I will have to wait in line behind the folks who want to keep their seats, the folks who are being displaced, and the folks who want to upgrade their tickets, in order to do so. And then the order of choosing those seats within those priority groupings will depend on my overall donation points.

We are lucky enough to have four seats in WBU, on about the 10-yard line, which in the new plan is in the blue zone (same as the end zone) and requires a seat donation of $100 per seat, no change from the minimum donation $400 required for 2010 for access to four tickets. They are great seats, (you can see the view in my banner at the top of this blog) and thankfully it looks like we will be able to keep them. One of the reasons we like those seats is that they are next to the railing that divides WBU and WCU. Nobody climbs over us to get in and out of the seats.

But our friends who have held seats next to us for nearly 30 years, who are on the other side of the railing in WCU and have only a slightly better view, between the 10- and 15-yard line, will have to pay $400 per ticket at a minimum to retain those seats. The donation for these friends will be at a minimum $1600.

I suppose there has to be a cutoff somewhere, but the value difference seems to be exacerbated in this situation. $400 per seat for only a slightly better change in view?

The idea of people paying more for better seats isn't necessarily a bad plan. It makes good business sense for an athletics department that is self-sufficient and has only two revenue-producing sports: football and men's basketball, and needs to support 27 other non-revenue-producing sports. The financial explanations on the web-site, though, are a bit vague. Some more transparency on the financial pressures that Penn State Athletics is facing would be helpful.

Also, Penn State merely refers us to the web-sites of other schools to show the trends. A comparison chart would have been very helpful to get some of us up to the reality of what's happening elsewhere.

It was inevitable that a plan like this would be proposed. The advent of legalized on-line scalping in Pennsylvania can be blamed for that. Penn State and the rest of us began to see how much the tickets between the 25-yard line are really worth, and how many of those tickets are for sale every week by season ticket holders. The brutal reality is that a lot of season ticket holders scalp many of their tickets to help pay for their donation or even make a profit, and attend only a few games each year.

I just wonder if Penn State went a bit too far as to where they drew the line in the sand on where the price increase per seat occurs. Especially in this economy.

And finally I also wonder what the value will be for this price increase in the form of better competition on the field at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State, give us something in exchange for this new plan! Promise us you'll give up an eighth home game to schedule a "home and home" with a non-conference team that's more competitive than Eastern Illinois. We understand that the seventh home game in a 12-game season is a real need to bring in revenues.

But an eighth home game? There's a limit to fans' willingness to put up with games that are not competitive, especially at these increased prices. And it does nothing to improve our BCS standings, either.

Will Penn State season ticket holders STEP into the future? The willingness of Penn State fans to renew their 2010 season tickets will be a strong indication of how much resistance there will be.

No comments:

Post a Comment