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Archive for March, 2011

Concerned about AT&T tickets

For the season ticket holders out there, they know that seat-picking time is around the corner. I wanted to give some of my thoughts on what’s about to happen.

First the positive:

I went to AT&T park for the promotional open house event. It was simple but well run and getting to walk the stadium was well worth the drive (my family combo’ed the event with a trip to the Exploratorium for the kids). Minus the left field corner seats where both the foul pole and the stadium structure make it hard to see the near endzone, there’s very few bad seats in the house. The lower deck, particularly the endzones have some depth perception problems because of how low they are (since it’s a baseball park), but overall, it’s pretty good, particularly on the upper deck, which was better than I expected.

Which brings me to my concern:

I believe that the University is significantly over expecting people to pay for expensive seats.

I’ve thought this for a while now, from the first instant I saw the seating/pricing chart. If you look at it, there’s a LOT of high priced donor seats and a fair number of seats that look to be the equivalent of the Blue/Gold zone and not much in-between. But my instinct grew stronger when I went to the stadium and was surprisingly happy with the upper deck (“view level”) seats.

But not wanting to solely rely on my instinct, I decided to see if they were really asking for too many people to pay donations for their seats. Not having exact seat counts for each section at both Memorial and AT&T, I had to guestimate, but based on how the sums worked out, my numbers probably aren’t too far off. I assumed each of the sections in Memorial had 1500 seats and each full section at AT&T had 500 whereas the smaller middle level was half that (BTW, that results in a Memorial capacity of 67K and 38.5K for AT&T). That results in the following table of seats:

Seat Category Memorial AT&T
ESP N/A 3000
$1200 donation 3000 1500
$600-$800 donation 3000 8000
$300-$400 donation 3000 3750
$150-$200 1500 2000
$50-$100 donation 3000 3500
Reserved 21000 6250
Blue&Gold 18000 6000
Student 6500 3500*
Young Alum 3000 1000
Visitor 6000 2500

*The student section, being bleachers, is the section I’m least confident of the AT&T quantity. That could easily be 5K, but 3K is my best guess.

Obviously one would expect a number of sections to be smaller than their Memorial equivalent, so I’m not particularly concerned with the young alum, student or visitor section. The two that are troublingly small to me are the Blue & Gold equivalent (which is the white seats in the linked diagram) and the general reserved. While not all of the 21K reserved seats at Memorial were sold as season tickets, my gut feel is that the number is higher than 6K. Even more troubling is the Blue and Gold, which are PACKED at Memorial. They are reduced by more than half.

Are they really expecting these people to bump up into donor seats?

Then, if you look at the donor sections, they’re all larger in size. Of particular note is the $600 to $800 bucket, which is now 5,000 seats larger! And to be perfectly clear, I was generous in my groupings. Memorial didn’t have $800 donation seats, they had $600, so by grouping those two together, I’m already assuming some of the $600 donors are willing to up their numbers a little. I used that same grouping methodology across the entire table, assuming that many of the $300 will be willing to go to $400, the $150 to $200, the $75 to $100.

Even with that generous grouping the ONLY donor section that didn’t increase in size was the top-end $1200 level… but that’s because they’re the source of most of the ESP seats. So really if we were to group those two, that group would be rising in number too.

And here’s where this concern gets personal… or said another way, here’s where the concern ends up with a lot of ticked off people:

The seat selection process goes from the long term donors to the short term non-donors (which is perfectly fair). I fit somewhere in the lower middle third, a medium term non-donor. I’m around selection #25000 out of 40K. I get to pick on April 6th, when the first selections start March 14th. (Again, I think that’s fair.)

But what happens when all those bigger donors and longer season ticket holders decide to buy cheap seats? There’s nothing that mandates that they pay for the expensive ones. I see a domino effect where everyone keeps pushing out, section wise, picking cheaper seats than the University is expecting both because they don’t want to pay as much as the University wants AND because by they time they get to pick, the section they’d like to sit in is down to the last few bad seats from the higher donor groups. This is particularly true when combined with my earlier positive that there’s very few bad seats in the house. Why pay more when you can get a darned good seat for less?

In any case, as each group expands beyond their prior grouping, things will get worse down the line until when they get to me, there will be a ton of VERY expensive seats left and effectively no seats available in my price range. (This is particularly worrisome for me because I need 6 adjacent seats.)

I sure hope I’m wrong, but I’m quite concerned. How will the University respond when #39000, a guy with two Blue Zone seats goes to buy his tickets and all that’s left is $1200 donor seats. The guy was guaranteed seats as a 2010 season ticket holder, right?