With any change in a ticketing and donation process there will of course be winners and losers, but to us it seems there will be a lot more winners with this change. The cost of entry for the best seats for football & basketball is much lower, and more of your total giving to the program will be reflected in the benefits you receive.
We spent some time with Bulls external guru Andrew Goodrich about the new ticketing process. Basically everything is going to change about the way you buy tickets for USF: how much you'll pay, the benefits you'll receive, and where you'll sit. Hopefully this will begin to answer some of the questions you might have, and also show why the new leadership felt a change was necessary.
1. How do you feel about the process you've gone through, and what do you expect to be improvements in this new system?
There are so many constituencies you have to try to make happy when doing something like this, and that's the biggest degree of difficulty: making sure everyone that touches it feels good about it. I think we made as good a process as we can, and I feel really positive about the direction we are going.
We'll still improve on it in the future. Does a perfect plan exist? Of course not, though we've worked extremely hard to get as close as we can. This program provides lower prices or greater value with the new benefits for the vast majority of our fans, and that, along with creating the best game day atmosphere possible, is the goal. Our season ticket members and Bulls Club donors needed to be a part of this, and they were. We've listened to many them, and we want them in on the ground floor as we move our program forward.
While we were doing some focus groups, we came to some important realizations: one of which was giving out highly discounted and free tickets is a disincentive to those who purchase season tickets, which ultimately works against our goal of developing a very strong foundation of season ticket members to create a home venue advantage for our teams.
In an effort to protect the investment of season ticket holders, we will not devalue the price of our tickets by applying deep discount methods. No more Groupons. No more overly cheap tickets sold at the last minute that only erodes the investment that our loyal fans made at the beginning of the sales year. That ends now.
2. You've lowered a lot of prices, but overall do you think these changes will be revenue positive, neutral, or negative for the upcoming season?
Our priority in creating the new program was to make the process easier and better for our fans while creating a great game day atmosphere. This program is designed to increase attendance, revenue, and support our student-athletes with a home venue advantage. It was developed from listening to fans via surveys & focus groups. They told us what they want. Based on conversations we've had just today, there's many fans who had dropped their season tickets over the past several seasons who are seriously interested in becoming season ticket members again. This is not a loss leader, we believe this will lead to greater revenues.
3. What are the best things about this plan, and how are that vast majority you speak of benefitting?
This plan gives so much more flexibility to both fans and our program, which is something that we have never had before. There's a lot of fans that wanted to move to the opposite side of the stadium, from East to West, and this allows them to do so without paying as much of a premium for those seats. But they also want to sit together: the good news is, if you want to continue to sit with your friends, I believe that we can make that happen for you.
Now you can have the best seat in the house for $650 per ticket, before it required a $10,000 donation, and that was before you actually bought the tickets. We looked across the country to see what the best programs are doing and we found that many programs reward alumni with a discount on season tickets, and we are thrilled to announce that we are now offering discounts starting at 20%.
If you're a young alumni couple, and you purchase your tickets by May 31, with your 20% discount you can get two club access seats for football for a total of $700. They could also get two club access women's basketball seats for $77 each with their 20% discount. That might be the best entertainment bargain in Tampa Bay.
We wanted more opportunity to put our loyal fans in the best seats, and we've done that.
We also reward those fans that invest in several programs. If you give annual fund donations to any of our 19 sports, it now counts towards your giving total. That hasn't happened before.
4. The elephant in the room: if you've had eight USF football season tickets on your account since 1998 (or have multiple accounts as many people do) and are making a small (or no donation at all) to the Bulls Club, you're probably not coming out ahead in this deal. What do you say to those that have been with the program from the beginning?
We worked very hard to ensure that as many of those fans as possible will pay the same or less for their tickets. Fans with accounts that have fewer than 6 tickets are very likely to pay less. So many times we had people that were grandfathered in at $100 giving levels, and instead of making a new donation for more tickets, we allowed them to add more and more tickets to that one grandfathered account. We found that being repeated over and over by numerous accounts. In order to move our program forward, we felt this was something we needed to correct, and did so at very fair and affordable levels compared to the market and our peer institutions.
We are grateful for and respect the fans who have been here since the beginning. Many of them were grandfathered and not required to pay the full donation, we understand that, but now nearly twenty years later in order to maintain competitive athletics programs and give fans the results they are expect and deserve, we need to modernize our ticket sales and giving structure. We are asking those fans to work with us, to allow us to find you a great seat, at a fair and affordable price that will support our student-athletes today, and help develop an even brighter future.
5. Club access & parking are the two things most longtime donors care about, and you've actually expanded that pool: if you donate at least $1000 cumulatively across all sports OR purchase a ticket at the three highest levels, you're still receiving that access.
Correct. That is why this is a better program for our fans and donors. We've lowered the cost of entry, expanded benefits, and developed a structure that is equitable and built to help us increase support for the future success of our programs.
Dollar for dollar, I believe that we have the best value going. We are providing one of the best entertainment values in Tampa Bay. Just for comparison's sake, if you purchased two seats on the 50 yard line with club access, our most expensive seats, it will cost $1,300 and a portion of that purchase is tax deductible. Those same two seats for a professional football game would cost you more than four times as much. With the new pricing structure, it is flexible enough to allow access to the best seats and grow our fan base as we rise.
And now there's no need make a phone call or work through a ticket representative, unless you want to speak to them. Fans can now take care of all their ticket needs online, which is something we heard from fans repeatedly they wanted. It's all on the website. And we're committed to making this an even easier and better experience in the future.