Cost to go to games continues to rise
A sluggish economy and the fact every conference game is now televised in some form or another have conspired to flatten out Southeastern Conference attendance figures in recent years.
Still, that hasn’t stopped SEC schools from expanding or upgrading their stadiums.
Six of the SEC’s 14 members, including LSU, have, are planning or are considering some sort of project. Many of the others, like Auburn, are finding other ways to enhance the fan experience, to make the time and expense of going to the stadium on a Saturday more special than staying at home with the remote.
Nonetheless, taking you and yours out to the campus for a game has become an increasingly pricey proposition.
According to an Advocate survey of ticket prices across the now 14-team SEC, fans can expect to pay $70 or more for a seat at the best games across the conference. A similar survey conducted by the Birmingham News found new SEC member Texas A&M topping the list, charging $100 for games at Kyle Field against LSU and Florida.
The cheapest? For $24, you can park yourself on a patch of grass on the hillside overlooking the north end zone at Missouri’s Faurot Field for Saturday’s season opener against Southeastern Louisiana.
LSU single game ticket prices are tiered: from $40 for Saturday’s season opener with North Texas, Idaho and Towson to $50 for Washington, Mississippi State and Ole Miss and $70 for the home schedule’s premier games with Alabama and South Carolina.
That’s if you can get a ticket.
Entering the 2012 campaign, LSU sold out of season tickets for the ninth straight year, equaling last year’s mark of 68,772. As of Thursday, only a smattering of tickets remained for North Texas, Idaho and Towson, with LSU selling remaining tickets for Miss. State and Ole Miss as packages with discounted tickets for North Texas or Idaho.
Those packages are a rare concession to hard-to-sell tickets at LSU. Generally speaking, LSU has a demand for more suites, club seats and season tickets than Tiger Stadium currently holds, part of the reason the school is planning an expansion that will take the 88-year-old venue’s capacity from 92,542 to near 100,000 in time for the 2014 season.
Meanwhile, on construction sites and drawing boards around the SEC:
- Ole Miss: The school’s “Forward Together” campaign includes consideration for bowling in north end zone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
- Mississippi State: By 2014, State will have in place behind its north end zone 22 new suites, 1,336 more club level seats and a 750-person standing room only club level area.
- Missouri: Will add some premium seating and press box improvements for 2013. By 2015, 5,000 general admission seats and 1,000 club seats will be added to Faurot Field’s east side.
- Texas A&M: Has hired the well-known sports architecture firm Populous to come up with plans for a renovated Kyle Field or, possibly, even an entirely new stadium.
- Vanderbilt: Has added 500 berm-type seats behind its open north end zone for $116 for the Commodores’ six home games.
Premium seating has been the focus of most schools’ stadium expansion efforts in recent years. Every SEC stadium has suites, and Vandy and Kentucky’s stadiums are the only ones not to offer club seating.
Well-heeled fans are quite willing to pay for the pampering. A 30-seat suite at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium will cost you $121,950 per season, while a 40-seat “Tiger Den” at LSU comes at the comparatively bargain price of $110,743 — plus the season tickets, of course.
Almost all SEC season tickets, whether or not they come with covered seats and catering, do come with an extra price tag these days.
In pro sports they’re called seat licenses. In the college ranks they’re called donations. Both are a huge revenue stream that every SEC school now taps into in some form or another.
While some season tickets at Auburn, Kentucky and Texas A&M require no donation to the school’s athletic support institution, those seats are in the minority.
Most donations run from $50, the smallest amount required for LSU’s Tradition Fund (the best sideline seats require a $950 donation) to up to $3,500 at Alabama. At Arkansas, a prime seat on the 45 may only require a $300 donation for renewing season ticket holders, but up to $20,000 for the right to buy up to 16 of the choicest sideline seats if you are new or trying to improve your perch.
The concern that SEC schools — like sports programs and franchises across the country — are losing touch with or pricing out the average fan is born out in the attendance figures.
After average attendance rose each year from 2001-06, those figures have been fairly static since then despite growing stadium capacity. The SEC averaged 75,706 fans per game in 2006 but was up to just 75,832 last season after peaking at 76,844 in 2008.
To enhance fan experiences, schools like Auburn are allowing fans to bring tablet or laptop computers with them to Jordan-Hare (there is a charge for internet access). Vandy and Arkansas have added expanded video scoreboards, and LSU has spruced up the exterior of its stadium with new entrance gates and lighting.