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Schools are adding amenities to make end zone seating more attractive

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Wisconsin season ticket holder Kim Heyman had heard all the stories about the downsides of sitting in end zone seats.

He realized the potential viewing limitations that come from sitting behind a goalpost. But seeing Wisconsin’s plan to make the South End Zone a premier experience, Heyman bought a package.

He now believes he has one of the best seats in the house.

Heyman said, “If you get a chance to sit in these seats and see the view of the field from here, it’s an excellent view.” “There is no obstruction in your sight. You see each game develop. It is awesome.”

The situation in Wisconsin is not unique. Many colleges have added features to make their end zone seats more attractive — and more expensive.

“The days of cheap seats in end zones with poor views have now changed dramatically,” said Sharryan Walker, who teaches a course in stadium and arena management as a professor of sports management and dean of the College of Business at Western New York. University of England. “It’s first class seating.”

Turning such seats into first-class experiences allows colleges to appeal to fans at a time when attracting spectators is becoming increasingly difficult. The average attendance for Football Bowl Subdivision games has fallen every year since 2014, falling to 39,848 last season, the lowest level since 1981.

Seats in the terminal areas have traditionally been a hard sell.

“When you notice that maybe there’s a bad supply — seats aren’t selling or the university doesn’t want it at that level — you discover what you can do creatively with the space you have left as a great home space.” Can create field advantage,” said Rick Thorpe, Arkansas deputy athletic director of outside affiliations.

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Jason King, senior associate director of athletics for Wisconsin, said surveys of fans showed a need for first-class seating that gives spectators the option of being outside instead of spending the entire game in a suit.

“It allows people to enjoy top-notch amenities, but still be able to stay with the game and enjoy the traditions that make our stadium truly special,” said King.

Wisconsin removed 7,190 standard end zone seats and replaced them with 2,734 seats that could be sold at higher prices. Fans will have wider seats with more legroom, dedicated restrooms and access to extensive food and drink options in an indoor clubroom.

Seasonal package prices run from $700 for patio access to $4,500 per person for first-class boxes that can accommodate four to six people each. Field-level boxes bring fans as close as possible to the action.

Wisconsin officials said they sold all 2,734 seats to bring in $6 million in revenue.

Arkansas underwent a $160 million renovation of the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019, adding 70 log cabins, 32 suites, and a north zone with approximately 2,400 club seats. Fans with access to the indoor club will be able to watch the Razorbacks walk from the locker room to the field before the game.

Mississippi’s South End field has 18 logs that each seat six people, cost $10,000 per box, and include access to a covered field house with a full-service buffet. Fans who already have tickets for seats elsewhere in the stadium can pay an additional $850 per year to access a field-level club with an outdoor deck that allows them to line up behind the north end zone. permission is granted.

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“When players score, they come over and give fans a high-five,” said Mike Ritchie, Mississippi State’s executive senior associate athletic director.

Walker notes that the indoor clubs that come with many of these premier end zone seats provide a sports bar atmosphere.

“You think about the young alumni coming back,” he said. “They may not be able to afford the suite yet, but they may be able to afford premium end zone seating and get to meet their friends and network.”

Ritchie said the Mississippi State suites on the east side of the stadium cost $50,000 a year and can hold up to 30 people. Premium End Zone seats will still allow access to the indoor club at a discounted rate.

“What we’ve found over the last eight or 10 years is that everyone has a different expectation of what their viewing experience is going to be like and how they’re going to enjoy the event,” Ritchie said. “For some people, especially young people, it’s not so much, ‘I want to be on the 50-yard line,’ or ‘I want to be at the bottom,’ or ‘I want to be in a certain place. I want. It’s more about the social aspect. It’s more about room to move and not being tied to a 22-inch piece of metal in the stands.

It’s also about the possibility of indoor access, especially in northern stadiums where the weather becomes an issue.

“We have warm weather in September and cold weather in November, so there’s a reason to go indoors for most of the season,” said Ryan McGuire, Senior Associate Athletics Director at Iowa State.

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Still, it’s just a matter of making sure the packs offer a good view of the action.

Ritchie says fans love Mississippi State’s log cabins because they’re so close to the field that players can hear what spectators are saying. In Wisconsin, Heyman received a 3D presentation from school officials, who showed him a favorable perspective from his seat.

Heyman says he got everything he was promised.

Heyman said, “You can sell these seats for whatever premium dollar you have.”

That’s what school officials want to hear.

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Steve Megargy, The Associated Press

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