Jeff: Last week I renewed my football season tickets and was able to add an adjacent seat to the two I already had for next season as well. Since the season ticket holder renewal deadline had already passed by more than a month, I figured that the ease of renewing and adding a seat went along with the common perception that ticket sales were weak.
Trying to get some facts to find out what is really going on with ticket sales though, we reached out to Chris Cameron, Boston College's Associate Athletics Director, Media Relations, to get some answers on how football ticket sales are going.
Chris: I appreciate the fact that you reached out to me in an effort to clear up some misconceptions. Indeed, any speculation on message boards and fan sites that donations, season ticket sales and ticket sales in general will be very weak are, in fact, misconceptions. Our final fundraising totals for this past year have just been tabulated (the fiscal year ended May 31) and with more than $20 million raised, the department just experienced its most successful cash year ever (when discounting two years that included gifts from the Yawkey Foundation and the Connell Family).
The year also saw the largest commitment ever made in support of a varsity athletics team from an alumnus with the announcement of a $5 million gift to endow the head men’s ice hockey coach position, and the baseball program just received a $2.5 million gift.
Regarding football ticket sales, in general, our renewal rate at this point is higher than it was at this point last year. While it is still early in the game, we have sold hundreds of new season tickets. Our home schedule is extremely attractive, and we appreciate the loyalty and dedication of our fans very much. Our staff is working extremely hard to sell as many tickets as possible for the 2012 season.
Jeff: As a season ticket holder myself, I was just able to renew my tickets this past week, more than a month past the original deadline and add an adjacent seat. How are season ticket sales going for the 2012 football season? Specifically, what kind of renewal rates are you seeing compared to the past?
Chris: As stated before, our renewal rate at this point is higher than it was at this point last year, giving us reason for optimism. We have sold hundreds of new season tickets and hope to sell many more.
Jeff: With only a six game schedule, season tickets are relatively cheap and they include home games with Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame. Surely the athletic department is disappointed with sales this season but what would have been considered a successful rate of season ticket sales as a percentage of capacity?
Chris: In fact, the Athletics Department is not disappointed with sales this season. On the contrary, we are pleased that the rate is better than at this point last season.
Jeff: As you are reaching out to those who did not renew, what sort of reasons are you being given as to why those who are not renewing are not doing so?
Chris: Our sales team always reaches out to those who did not renew. There are several reasons cited for not renewing, including the economy and parking challenges at our home games. Also, some people have chosen not to renew because they were disappointed in our record last season. We understand their concern; our entire department was disappointed with our team’s record last season.
While these reasons apply specifically to our program, drops in season ticket sales is not a BC issue alone; it is a college and professional sports issue. Please see the following excerpt from an August, 2011 article in USA Today:
"The colleges, for many years, were almost in an arms race for who could have the most seats — and they were able to fill those seats, for the most part, says Mark Dyer, a senior vice president for IMG College, whose menu of services includes ticket sales. That has changed. … Most schools across the country have an issue with their football and/or their basketball seating demand vs. their seating capacity.
Dyer and others attribute this to a combination of the tough economy, high gas prices and advances in high-definition television that have improved home viewing.
Perennial attendance power Tennessee, after steadily increasing the capacity of its football stadium to more than 100,000, saw its season-ticket sales drop from 78,000 in 2001 to 67,000 last year, says Chris Fuller, senior associate athletics director for external operations."
Jeff: Can you quantify at all what impact Montel Harris being kicked off the team had on ticket sales?
Chris: While this has been mentioned by a handful of tickets holders, the impact would be impossible to quantify.
Jeff: Finally, are many people ugrading to DBS seating or downgrading from DBS seating? Can we expect a change to the DBS structure next season?
Chris: There has been no significant shift in either direction. Alumni Stadium seats 44,500. There is not a bad seat in the house. Only 16 percent of the seats in the stadium (6,000 seats) are donor-based. The vast majority -- 84 percent -- of the seats in Alumni Stadium are not affected by donor-based seating.
Jeff: We thank Chris for joining BCI to talk about how season ticket sales are going for 2012. I am glad to hear that sales are stronger than I had thought, but when this schedule first came together, it had the potential for several sellouts. I will still be surprised if any games other than Clemson (Parent's Weekend) and Notre Dame sell out but hope to be wrong.