Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Take on Today's Ticket News

In case you're not on the e-mail list...and haven't wanted to, or had the chance to read other Purdue outlets, Burke and the athletic department have decided to add a mandatory donation to all of the good seats in Ross-Ade Stadium.


Burke noted on GBI that he's heard loud and clear that he's been too cheap...and now says it's time to pony up so Purdue can compete.

I'm glad that he got the message...but it took nearly losing Matt Painter after underpaying he and his staff, and paying bargain basement salaries for the entire football staff before he understood...but I kinda think he still doesn't quite get it; nor does the athletic department.

I can only speak from my own perspective- Not only am I cheap by nature, but also my money is tight.  Having two young kids and running not one, but two businesses which are struggling, affects all of my opinions and financial decisions.

I sat in section 119 from 2000 until 2008.  My son (LBD) was two, when my wife and I, along with much of our family, decided to stop buying season football tickets.  The next year, I spent my money on basketball tickets and a few football tickets for me and my family.  That's continued until recently, when I've had multiple people offer me tickets to various games; which my family and I have appreciated a ton.

So an additional fee per seat in between the 30 yard lines really doesn't affect a person like me directly...but I still don't like the thinking...and think the timing is poor.

The Boiler fans that I know best have had a similar change in their spending during the last few years.  I think almost everyone has been affected by the economy and has been forced to re-assess how they spend their entertainment dollar.  For me and those closest to me, spending a ton of money for a day in which I left the stadium disgruntled was a waste...a waste of time and money.  But I kept going at a more-regular rate than many of those around me. In fact, I've actually found out that it's been difficult to give tickets away...let alone ask someone to buy some with me.

I think I'd be classified as dead-center middle class American, financially.  I feel blessed to live in the neighborhood that I do and to do what I do for a living...but money is perpetually tighter for me than I'd like it to be.  When Painter's contract was re-negotiated, I responded by giving money to the JPC and buying two 1/3 season tickets (while splitting them with two friends).  The cost of Painter's salary was worthwhile because we knew what we were getting and felt and still feel that he belongs at Purdue...and the staff around him needs to be the guys he wants/needs courtside.

Painter had just come off of one of the most-consistent five year stretches in the history of Purdue basketball...those teams averaged 25 wins/season and were generally near the top of the conference.  Painter earned the raise.

As much as I like Darrell Hazell as a hire along with his assistant coaches, this situation is not the same.  Purdue's season ticket woes will be solved by winning...plain and simple.  When Tiller won with regularity, beat good teams and was competing game-in, game-out, Purdue fans responded by buying tickets and showing up on campus.  When Purdue's football team was getting hammered by the upper third of the conference (except aOSU, for some reason) and wetting itself versus good non-con opponents, Purdue fans reacted in kind as well.

Purdue fans, for better or worse, are pragmatic and logical...and I'd bet that many right now are thinking, "I'm rooting for these guys to succeed, hoping for it...but want to see proof."

I'll speak personally again for a moment.

In 2000, I had just moved back from the East coast.  Right away, it was priority for me to get season tickets...so my brother and I each bought them and had one rotating seat for a guest.  The next year, the rotating seat went away as we got a block of four seats.  The year after that, we had a block of six seats and the year after that, our family had eight seats together.  In 2008, I stopped getting season tickets as did my brother and his wife...in 2010, none of my family had full-season tickets.

Sure, coming back for two or three games a season isn't a killer financially for two tickets...but it stings for three or four; And doing that while dragging small kids and a wife as Purdue gets beaten up isn't much of a fun day...and isn't a gratifying way for me to spend the money.  So LBD and I get to a few games generally, my wife and daughter will go to one additionally and one of my pals is kind enough to get me tickets to a few more. I thank God I get to go to these games without having to calculate if I wasted too much on a Saturday.

But if I was spending $375, $500 or more per ticket for a season, I'd probably be pausing right now...even if a third of the cost was tax deductible.

I know I'm going to catch hell for this post...I've read the message boards and twitter, and many Purdue fans are piling on other Purdue fans for having a similar opinion, but I am what I am.  If you want to call me a fair weather fan because I don't think it makes a ton of sense to ask the biggest, most consistent supporters of the program to foot the bill for Burke's wasted four year experiment with Hope, fine.  If you want to compare Purdue's newly-installed fee with other schools like aOSU, UM, Nebraska, PSU and Wisconsin, OK...I still don't think the comparison makes much sense.

Burke, who is a smart guy by the way (no, I'm not being sarcastic), thinks this is the right way to go...I hope he's right. If he's wrong, he'll fade into retirement and let his successor pick up the pieces of losing long-time season ticket holders or deal with the drop in revenue of many downgrading their seats. If he's right and people are OK with this fee AND Hazell wins quickly, he'll look like a genius and Purdue historians will judge him very well.

The thing I don't get about the math is this: A big chunk of the ever-rising BTN TV revenue has obviously been going to renovations to Mackey and Painter's overall staff raise.  But, Burke assured fans that there was a war chest that had been raised to help pay for Hope's exit and Hazell's entry...it sure doesn't feel like that war chest was anything more than scraping the last few dollars out of the Athletic Department's savings...and hoping that this additional fee will be broadly accepted.  Sure, Purdue's revenue stream from football has been shrinking yearly; we've been talking about this for two years.  But, the university at large takes one of, if not the highest percentage, of TV revenues from the athletic department in the conference...and still expects the athletic department to compete-  So perhaps the blame for this decision lands squarely on the Board of Trustees for distributing a disproportionate amount of athletic revenue out of the that department.

Everyone's feeling the pinch in this economy...and if you don't believe in trickle down economics, talk for a few minutes to someone who owns or manages a restaurant near Ross-Ade; I did quite a bit this fall. Purdue's awful showings versus Michigan and Wisconsin led to an empty Ross-Ade stadium and little traffic to commerce around the stadium in subsequent games.  A demoralized fanbase bought fewer Ricardo Allen jerseys and fewer Duane Purvis burgers before and after the games...so if Hazell's rebuilding process isn't quick and promising, the athletic department's gamble could affect every business near the stadium adversely...yet again.

I think Hazell's the right guy for the job...and unlike J, I think he'll win after a season or so of changing the low-accountability and lower expectation culture within the program right now (J expects big things this fall, for the record).

As I often say here, I hope I'm wrong- I hope Burke's decision turns out to be very good...I hope J's prediction of 8 wins in 2013 is right on, or even a little low...and I hope me, my friends and family are all but forced to get a big block of season tickets once again in the very near future because the product on the field is undeniably-good.

17 comments:

J Money said...

Wow, you guys had a rotating seat? I didn't think those really existed. How fast did it rotate? Did you miss exciting plays sometimes because of it? How often were you facing the wrong way at a key moment?

Brotherman85 said...

I agree boilerdowd.

It makes more sense for Burke to do this a few years into Hazell's campaign. Just look at the putrid showing of the student section over the past few seasons. This plan would be more effective in the likely situation where the demand for tickets is higher after a few years of constant improvement that we all anticipate.

Do the rotating seats have different speed settings?

zlionsfan said...

In general, I think this is the right approach. If you need more money - and obviously the athletic department can use it - then you get it from a) the top JPC members and b) the people with the good seats at the games.

In this case ... I think it's a really big risk. For one thing, unless I'm misreading that graphic, tickets would be the same price at the bottom of the sections as at the top, and that's not really how it should work. If you want to dig into someone's pocket for more money, it should be someone who has a good view, not someone sitting way behind those people.

For another, the on-field product doesn't justify it, not in the slightest. The list of Big Ten schools they provided is a joke: the only one of these that is a peer of Purdue is Minnesota, and they have a new stadium to pay for, which inflates their prices (and may also add quite a bit to the experience). Nebraska's tickets are sky-high due to demand; the other schools can charge those prices because of recent success ... and if you read other Big Ten blogs, you know that raising ticket prices during a recession is going over poorly at Big Ten schools with recent BCS appearances. Purdue, as you may have noticed, does not have a recent appearance.

This is similar to what happened in 1989: George King raised the price of student tickets from free to half price, again citing comparable costs throughout the conference. (In his defense, handing out free tickets caused a certain lack of ... interest among many who attended the games, because they didn't pay. Of course the on-field product was poor then, too.) That, plus the woeful Akers era, cut attendance by more than 30% for the '89 season. Purdue didn't average 60K again until 1999, after Tiller won back-to-back bowl games ... and it dropped under 60K in 2006.

Did it make sense to increase ticket revenue? Yes, at some point. Did it make sense to do so when the team was failing to meet expectations? Hell no. Fans are not a captive audience. There are many ways to follow the Boilers now, and most of them are free. You aren't going to pull fans away from their HDTVs on Saturday by charging more for a bad product ... and if you chase fans away, you're going to struggle to match the revenue you were generating before the increase in ticket prices.

Michael R. said...

Oh good, now stadium crowd shots during football games will show sparse crowds near the 50 yard lines. I guess it will be ok since the team barely made it past there the last couple years.

BoilerBloodline said...

You really think Burke is a smart man? For the record, I think he is a has been trying to cover his brown star. This may be worse than his BRILLIANT move to put leather seats in Mackey, just for them to sit empty or have a 13 yr old girl playing Fruit Ninja on an ipad while our team competes. Burke is the KING of giving a little and expecting a lot. Hell, does he really think the fans will show up now? This team hasn't done SQUAT in YEARS. He played the coaching roulette wheel with Hope, he lost the fans that were there. And now that he's paying the AVERAGE salary for a B10 coach, he EXPECTS the fans that left to not only return, but return and PAY MORE. BEHOLD...A true mastermind at work folks.

boilerdowd said...

BB- I do think he's smart; he got pretty far in business before coming to Purdue...and didn't do that because of his freestyle times. That said, this move isn't smart.

The rotating seats also vibrate and heat up...which can be distracting, but when your back hurts, it really helps loosen things up.

zl, you sound like a politician- your first paragraph glows about the idea...your subsequent words give cases in which it hasn't worked...hint: this tactic doesn't work; but winning works every time. When Jim Everett was slinging the ball around and surprised the nation, it took less than a season for tickets to become tougher to find...when Brees and Orton were doing the same, almost every game was the same way.

Create a culture of winning. Punishing the most-loyal fans and forcing their hand does little but create resentment.

BoilerBloodline said...

BD, I see what you're saying. Our definitions of smart are just a little different. His job is partially public relations...which is his fan base. He may be able to balance the books but he can't relate to the average Purdue fan unless they are carrying money with his name on it. That type of "smart business" only works when the product you're receiving in return is above par. He ALWAYS puts the chicken before the egg and many fans are fed up with it. Like yourself, I really hope Purdue takes off under Coach Hazell. If they don't Burke will ride off into the sunset with his tail between his legs and eggs whizzing by his head.

WinamacBoiler said...

BB - you hit the nail on the head. Burke came out of a worldclass manufacturing facility. Go-to-market was always a variable he had to solve for, but he could build his model knowing full well that his product was stellar. It was not a variable.

Well, welcome to Purdue, jackass. You can't play Adam Smith with pricing and attendance and act like it operates in a vacuum away from quality of product. You had that luxury at Inland - you don't have it here.

Boiler1975 said...

Hammer down....your comments hit the nail on the head

PurdueBill said...

I inquired and heard back from a ticket account exec about a couple questions I had, less about the new fees but about reshuffling of other seats. Since the 2003 reseating, I have been in the front row, across the aisle from the Band, interacting with them, dancing with them and Purdue Pete, and even joining the Band on the end line for Hail Fire. In 2012, though, they decided to seat visiting fans, including opponent team families, in that section, right behind me. It was a disaster. Andy Frain personnel mistreated me and my Purdue friends, IU fans bitched about Pete blocking their view (too bad, it's OUR stadium), etc. etc. What used to be an enjoyable experience for me and friends, anchoring our section and there being lots of Purdue fans, often families with children, turned into a stomach-turning disaster. I actually left the Michigan game early in the 2nd quarter due to that, went straight to the Union Club to cancel the reservation, and canceled the rest of the season's reservations except for the Bucket game, which I attended especially because of a postgame event. Why leave my elderly parents alone all weekend to endure crap? Heck, it turns out that they put Penn State's band in my seats and the friends who wound up using the tickets that day had to get drummers and drums moved out so they could occupy our ticketed seats.

Anyway, in 2013 the Band will be in lower parts of sections 109-111. (Why that isn't shown on the seating chart online is unknown...it could be of interest.) The account exec said that he could try hard to get me something low and close to the band. I told them that I would want something like what I had before--front row and NEXT to the band. Why bother with something in the middle of the 5th row a section away? That takes me to my initial thought about this--it is very, very odd to do this without a whole-stadium reseating. Evidently someone at the 20th percentile in JPC could happen to fall ass-backwards into being across the aisle from the band in the front row now, and it doesn't matter that I'm 70th percentile or better--they won't make them move. That's all well and good if they want to do it that way, but if it reaches that point, then I'm going to maybe buy one south end zone ticket only to preserve consecutive years of ticket purchase, tear up or give away the tickets, and give up. Material changes in the seating offerings (moving the band, repricing/starting the legacy fees) should be accompanied by reseating.

They are taking a huge risk with the legacy fees. It looks bad to be funneling so much money to that new building and then claiming poverty and jacking up prices on the fans, especially in the better seats. If we have a poor season, look for the place to really empty out in 2014. They better know exactly what they are doing and have contingency plans, because if they don't, Purdue will be in for a world of hurt. Looking at the basketball reseating last season, I wound up in the 20th row of upper bowl so as to at least be on the aisle for possibly a little more legroom. I could have been maybe 5 rows lower in the dead center of a row. I was called by the ticket office before the basketball tickets were mailed out about whether I was interested in an upgrade. This 70th percentile person wound up getting a seat in the 3rd row, lower bowl, behind Purdue's bench. Did that many people bail after one season of reseating? I know I'm a single seat, but I also know a couple people with two tickets who are in similar situations who got similar upgrades. And that was after Hummel's senior year and taking Kansas to the wire in the Sweet 16. What if the football team goes 5-7? Will anyone want to renew at exorbitant prices?

It will be interesting, that's for sure. I am hoping I can continue getting tickets in a comparable location to what I've had, but if not, I may bail--actually not due to the legacy fee but due to the big picture.

JHetfield99 said...

Purdue Bill, interesting stuff. I'm assuming you're the guy who often dresses in full Purdue gear and pads? That's bullshit that they won't give you those seats. Have you tried talking to Kyle Waters? He's the head of group sales, but is a good listener in my experience especially about history and tradition and I bet could pull some strings to help you get your old seats. Give him a ring, 765-494-3325 or email
kylewaters@purdue.edu

Lastly, the band is going to be in 109-111....so they are going to give the front rows of the prime students sections to the band?? Weird. I think student tix should go back to preset reserved sections instead of first-come, first-serve, (it 's a big reason all of the fraternities/sororities have bailed since half of the fun was being in a big group and you can no longer do that unless 75 walk to the game at once. Most have said screw it and just watch at home now where they can also drink.)

And if they are moving the band, is the goal to make the endzone completely empty? I always assumed part of the reason the band was placed in those seats was because they were some of the worst in the stadium, are fans going to want to buy those?

JHetfield99 said...

Bdowd, I agreed with you much more often than not but in this case overall, it seems perfectly reasonable to me if we want to watch a winning product. It's just for tix between the 10's. For those tix it raises price per game $10 to $15. If the price is the difference in someone not getting tickets, they can drop to the seats at the 10's or even cheaper options in the north and south endzone. We were one of what, 3 schools left that didn't yet have legacy fees on seats? I've seen the stats behind how much Neb and OSU fans have to pay for the right to buy season tix and it's insane. This price raise pretty much all of the hardcore fans who aren't going anywhere regardless, they are in for the long-term no matter what. So it's a way to raise money. It sucks to stick it to the true fans, but what's new there? We spent $2 mill+ more on this staff than the last staff because we're hiring real coaches with real experience, and not going dumpster-diving (if you compare the resume of Hope and staff to Hazell and staff it's startling.)

Does it suck i have to now pay $300 more annually for my 3 seats. It does, but I get John Purdue Club points (so it's no difference than raising my annual giving amount from the current $500 anyway, which I already planned to do to support the program and thank them for getting a real coach in Hazell).

As a longtime season ticketholder, I do think this is reasonable overall. I want to go back to the Rose Bowl. And I think we have the right guy in charge of the football team to do so.

-------------------------------------------------- ----------

http://purdue.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1466021

"it's time to take that step and be aggressive and take the risk or continue to try to be incremental. i've certainly gotten a lot of feedback over the last few years in terms of our frugality. i heard the message. i learned. we need a little bit of help to get that accomplished. i think we really have been able to find the way to close the gap considerably, but you'll see as we roll out the remainder of the staff, we've lived up to our commitment we said in our press conference. we've invested in people of stature and experience, and we're taking a risk. we're not going to do it conservatively. we're diving in. we're not putting our toe in. we're diving in. i've got to ask people to dive in with me. if we all do this together, then i think the benefits will come."

according to information provided by purdue, purdue's per-seat donation is significantly less than other big ten programs who also charge fees. comparatively, wisconsin's fee is $400 for "prime" seats, minnesota's is $500, michigan state, michigan, iowa and penn state's are $600, ohio state's is a minimum of $1,500 for two tickets and nebraska's is $3,500 per ticket.

"We know that the product in Ross-Ade has to be improved or we jeopardize our ability to be self-supporting," Burke said.


"I'd rather try to take the risk and create the future than have the future do it to us. We're either going to play at this level or we're not."

PurdueBill said...

I am indeed the same one. I was going up a JPC level every year (until I held pat in 2010 as word of the Pete redesign broke--my donation goes directly to Pete so of course I wanted to see what was going on with it) and buying season tickets for many years when I could have gotten in for a lot cheaper, in order to maintain my chosen location. I am not trying to blow my own horn but I have been a very visible and loyal fan for years. I have had fellow Purdue fans want to get pictures with me at events (awkwardly, sometimes even when Purdue Pete is right there and they don't ask for a picture with Pete after the one with me); I've managed to be selected "best fan" by visitors; a few people have told me that my buddy John and I should be in future EA Sports releases as we were becoming fixtures and reliable parts of game day. I've been cold and wet and tired and stayed the whole game to continue to be an example in my location. (I've heard from friends that now and then someone asks about me on GBI and that sometimes someone even bitches about me or says not-nice things. Screw them; I will not apologize for sticking up for my family or for being a bold, visible fan on game day. I've heard good things from too many people in positions that mean something to give any attention to some anonymous GBI poster's opinions of me.)

I am not looking for extra-special treatment. I know that there are others out there who donate more than I do (and someday I'd like to be more like them--for example, I'd like to endow a scholarship for a Pete instead of just paying for a new head.) I just want to get a continuing seat location that is like what I had before, because to me and my friends that is desirable. Material changes in the seating like they are making ought to come with a reseating, but the AD thinks otherwise. If they aren't careful, they will lose a lot of longtime JPC members and season ticket holders in order to accommodate people who've given a lot less over time. If that strategy backfires, more is the pity. I will call the ticket office account executive who's been in contact with me on Thursday when the renewal time begins. Hopefully there will be good news.

Today's email to JPC members and ticket holders reiterates that no matter the JPC points, you can't "bump" someone from the seats they already have in the cheaper sections--that is a slap in the face of people who now can't afford their old seats. Those people could have way more points from a lifetime of donations to the extent they can afford, and they can be told that now they must get worse seats than someone who just joined JPC at the lowest level last year because we can't move those people. Where is the loyalty to the people who've stayed so loyal so long through so much crappy football?

I'm not up in arms about the Legacy Fee because my prior seats and the ones I hope to have moving forward in order to continue having comparable seats are not affected. If I can get comparable seats in 2013, I may actually get 3 tickets instead of 2. But if they can not accommodate me after all the sacrifices I've made, that makes me just feel that if they don't need me, I don't need them. I'll have no problem going to 1 south end zone ticket in order to retain consecutive years of purchase (for whatever JPC points will be worth anymore anyway) and a parking pass to at least tailgate or even 0 tickets if that seems best.

The shuffling of the band to now take up student section real estate is puzzling. If the entire north end zone is vacant, it will look really bad. The fraternity/sorority groups indeed don't attend like they used to thanks to the appeal of air conditioning, HDTV, alcohol, and being together instead of frying/freezing, having to smuggle drinks, and no guarantee of sitting together. Purdue really made it a no-brainer for them to give up.

zlionsfan said...

Something else to note from the FAQ today (naturally, it's an image, so no copying and pasting, and there's no alternate text ... nice email from the '90s, I knew some admins at a previous job who did that stuff all the time):

Q: Does the amount I contribute to the Legacy Fund count towards my John Purdue Club membership level?
A: Legacy Fund contributions do not count toward John Purdue Club membership levels. This is consistent with the implementation of the Legacy Fund in Mackey Arena.

JHetfield, I wanted to make sure you saw that - apparently you won't be getting points for that extra $300 after all.

PurdueBill said...

Actually I think it counts toward points, but not toward level. That is, the $300 would count toward your giving total and generate 3 priority points, but that $300 wouldn't count toward the levels (http://www.purduesports.com/sports/jpc/spec-rel/levels.html)...you couldn't donate $200 and count the $300 toward a total of $500 to get to the next membership level (First Team to Captain in this case). That is how they did it with Mackey's legacy fee.

zlionsfan said...

Thanks for the clarification - that makes more sense. Not counting any of it at all would be a really bad decision.

JHetfield99 said...

Zlions and Purdue Bill, thanks for the replies and info. And what Bill just clarified with is also my understanding, but I will confirm with Ben Kewman of JPC.

PurdueBill, I again recommend contacting Kyle Waters who I mentioned above, telling him your story and request, if your ticket exec isn't helpful. I believe Kyle is the head ticket exec.