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Florida Atlantic Receives Large Gift for New Stadium, Utilizes Virtual Venue

Florida Atlantic University received its largest gift to date for its new on-campus stadium.  The school plans to name the stadium’s scoreboard with permanent signage after the donor who made the major contribution.  The new stadium is set to open October 15 when the team hosts Western Kentucky.  The $70million project will be able to hold 30,000 spectators and features 6,000 premium seats.  This past week FAU released a projected economic impact study which estimates that the school will be able to generate $1.8 million on game days.

The stadium is part of a larger on campus project known as Innovation Village.  The overall plan also includes residence halls, shopping, and dining establishments.  Innovation Village is instrumental in the school’s strategy to create a stronger on-campus experience which at the centerpiece of the plan is the new open-air facility.

Another neat aspect of the project is that the FAU athletic department has utilized the interactive stadium software, Virtual Venue, provided by IOMEDIA.  This “Virtual Venue” allows fans the ability to navigate the stadium and get price and donation information for any seat in the facility.  Additionally the website enables fans to get a sense of what it would be like to sit in the seats they are looking at with a “seat view” feature.  People who visit this site are also able to chat with an online ticket representative and can see further benefits for choosing different seating areas.

FAU is one of a growing number of schools to use IOMEDIA’s Virtual Venue.  The list includes Penn State, UCLA, and the University of Washington.  We have previously looked at how Ballena Technologies has helped athletic departments with their ticketing and reseating initiatives.  Both of these companies’ services enhance the seat selection process for development offices, donors, and fans.  As 3D virtual venue technology continues to evolve at the college level it will be interesting to see what new features will be incorporated that will add further value.

Drew Ossakow

Re-energize Support for Texas Tech Basketball

Ever since the early 1990s, personalized seat licenses have been synomonous with premium seating at college stadiums and arenas throughout the country.  Not surprisingly, when the United Spirit Arena at Texas Tech University opened in 1999, a PSL program was started with Red Raider basketball fans.  However, in an attempt to re-energize support for men’s and women’s basketball, Texas Tech Athletics has decided to do away with its PSL program all together.

This year, to purchase season tickets for Texas Tech basketball, Red Raider fans need to only purchase tickets at listed season ticket prices.  From there, Texas Tech is offering season ticket holders the option of purchasing a 3-Point Option plan, which provides enhanced benefits on gamedays as well as first right to renew seats in subsequent years.  Furthermore, all current paid-in-full PSL account holders and yearly PSL purchasers will be given the highest priority in the new seat selection process.

Overall, the removal of PSLs in the premium seating section at Texas Tech University signals a major shift of importance in the athletic department.  With this decision, Texas Tech is hoping to uncover a new group of fans that have been looking for an affordable way to watch Red Raiders basketball.  More importantly, this shift in seating pricing could spawn an entire new generation of young fans and long-term supporters of Texas Tech Athletics.

Michael Speight

SMU launches priority points system amid football success

Southern Methodist University Athletics is using the success of its first bowl game victory since 1983 to fuel its transition to a priority points system for Ford Stadium. The priority points system will determine ticketing and parking for all Mustang home games. SMU is using the transition to reward its loyal fan base that has stuck by the program over the past two decades.

Ford Field, which opened in 2000, is still considered a top of the line stadium for a school SMU’s size. SMU is making the move based on feedback from its donor base and research about its peer institutions. The priority seating aspect of the program only applies to one side of the Ford Field horseshoe. Donation levels for seating and parking is between $150-$10,000. Points for the program can be gained in a variety of ways including giving to the Mustang Club or Lettermen’s Association, purchasing season tickets and attending games, and volunteering in the annual fund drive.

Priority points represent a great way to increase giving amongst a donor base. It does come with some negative feedback from donors that have grown used to the old plan, but it is an effective tool for rewarding those individuals that have rewarded the department over the years. SMU picked a great time to start its program after a successful football season that recharged its fan base.

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Sean Phifer

Reseating program aids schools, excites donors

Click on the picture for Seton Hall's interactive seating diagram

The University of Indiana has recently joined the growing number of schools who have chosen to utilize Ballena Technologies for their donor reseating and ticket sales processes. The Ballena program, which works with the university’s existing ticketing system, allows its users to access virtual seat previews, compare seat prices, and pick their seats all from the comforts of their own home. During an otherwise time-consuming reseating process, the university can now rely on this technology to distribute seats among their donors based on priority points in a real-time  and simple computer based program.

Of course, Indiana is not the only university taking advantage of this technology. Seton Hall is using Ballena for their seating diagrams that show ticket prices and donation requirements for their entire basketball arena. This gives Seton Hall fans the opportunity to calculate their own totals for basketball tickets without having to contact members of the athletics department.

ADF has posted previously on basketball reseating methods with suggestions for a hands-on and  on-site selection process along with others which are primarily priority point driven. The correct way to handle a donor reseating effort will depend largely on the university, but a department looking for online interactivity should follow the examples set by Indiana and Seton Hall.

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Rob Norris

Michigan State Implements Seat Adjustment for Men’s Basketball

Michigan State Spartans
Image via Wikipedia

Michigan State University, looking to capitalize on the success of their men’s basketball program, implemented a seat adjustment for the 2009-2010 season. The Spartans finished as the national runner-up in the 2008-2009 season and added a fifth Final Four appearance in the past 11 years. The Spartan Fund – the fund raising arm for Michigan State Athletics – is leveraging this perennial success as well as increased engagement from both current and new donors.

Michigan State has not administered a seat adjustment since 1995, while a large number of top programs across the country reseat on a consistent basis. Under the new seat adjustment, season ticket holders earn priority seating through the new “Spartan Points” system, which reflects the donor’s overall investment in MSU Athletics. Spartan Points rankings were used to schedule each donor’s seat selection time using the popular Seat Relocation Management System (SRMS) by Ballena Technologies.

Seat relocations allow universities to maintain a more market-driven approach to seating. Permitting donors to stay in the same seats each year without increasing their giving level does not allow the athletic department to secure the highest potential value for each seat. Reseating ensures donor turnover and allows for donors who are willing to pay the maximum value a chance to secure their preferred seats. Clearly, this is a revenue-maximizing initiative, while programs such as Spartan Points also make certain donors are still being rewarded for their loyalty to their program. Although no immediate figures are available, Michigan State has positioned itself for long-term increases in giving to the Athletic Department.

By Matt Kirinovic

Choose Your Own Parking!

IllinoisIn late April, ADF posted about the trend of athletics departments allowing their donors to choose their own seats for home basketball event during re-seating attempts. We found that universities were getting fantastic feedback from implementing programs such as this. The more choices fans have regarding their game day experience, the happier they will be.

The University of Illinois is taking this concept to the parking lots. In a program called “I Decide Parking,” members of Illinois’ annual fund (the I FUND) are given the opportunity to choose the game day parking lot that best fits their needs. Different lots tend to have different experiences, such as tailgating and parties, that cater to specific segments of donors. The lots in close proximity to the stadium will be more attractive to those who do not want to walk as far to the game. Just like ticket selection, the lots will be available on a priority point basis, and the parking spots will be guaranteed for anyone who donates to the I FUND.

Thus far the program seems to be a success, with over half the qualified members signed up for “their” lot in the first week. Illinois is leading the way with the trend towards improving customer service at the collegiate level, and more universities will certainly be following in their footsteps.

A Donor Reseating Plan

UW reseating program yields positive results. 

 

UW reseating program yields positive results.

 

There are occasional headaches that come with any job, and in athletics development one of the largest is reseating donors. As priority points change and new arenas are built, departments have to spend a considerable amount of time every few years to overhaul their donor seating areas.

 
At the University of Washington, like many other schools, seats are reallocated based on priority points, giving levels, and other common drivers. According to Ken Winstead, former Associate Athletics Director for Development at UW, the development department at Washington needed a less painful process for both the fans and the staff for reallocating their seats for men’s basketball this year. The result was a plan that allowed UW donors to physically select their own seats.
 
Prior to the 2008-2009 season, donors and season ticket holders were assigned a time at which they could come to the arena and pick out their seats for the upcoming season. Those who had attained a higher priority in the UW points system were given the first crack at selecting their seats. While some chose seats they had before, others found that they could upgrade their seats to a better location.  
 
In addition to selecting their own seats, guests were privy to a number of other benefits during the process, such as complimentary refreshments, encounters with UW basketball staff and players, and interaction with other fans. UW athletics, in return, got a host of happy donors and additional interaction with their main fan base.
 
The process may have taken slightly longer than before when UW allocated the seats themselves, but the outcome was extremely well received from donors and fans. For the full Winstead recap on the UW reseating process, click here.

Head coach calls help excite donor base, speed transition

John Calipari has been contacting supporters of UK Athletics

John Calipari has been contacting supporters of UK Athletics

For the most part the men’s basketball head coaching carousel has settled down towards the end of this month. Coaches have made their moves to other programs, retired, or been let go. In any case, a movement among the leadership of one of the most visible program in any athletics department will cause grumbling from media, fans and donors.

However, regardless of the circumstances of the change, most donors will be receptive to the new coach should he/she reach out to the base. This can come in the form of e-mails, attending donor functions, or personal phone calls. During this time, the coach can learn about the donors who support the program and begin to build a relationship with key constituents.

This has recently occurred at the University of Kentucky, where John Calipari has been making phone calls to high-end donors and attending donor functions. Doing this has revitalized a fan base that was dissapointed at season end. His ability to entertain has excited not only the fans, but also the people who monetarily support his program.

At Northern Illinois University, Head Football Coach Jerry Kill spent much of his first weeks on the job attending donor functions, eating dinner with key supporters and winning over the fan base. This led to happier donors and an excited fan base before a football was snapped.

So when transition occurs, and if the coach is willing, getting him/her out in front of the fan base will go a long way to making supporters excited to dontate. They will feel like the money they give is going to someone they personally know.

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