March 30, 2012

TCU AD Chris Del Conte talks tickets had a chance this week to catch up with TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte and get some insight on the Amon G. Carter Stadium ticket allocation. Here's some of what he had to say on the subject:

PurpleMenace: Why did TCU choose that particular seat selection process?

TCU AD Chris Del Conte:" I think anytime you are going to reseat a stadium, there is a lot of trepidation with it. So I felt like having an online system, so people could watch and see, was the best way to be transparent in the process. Because if we were doing it like it was back in the day, where you come in one at a time, people weren't going to be able to really see how the stadium was being seated and look at it.

" If they want to see the seats, they can go and look at it virtually and see what is a good seat and what is not…I wanted people to have an opportunity to see that on a daily basis and see if they can't get these seats here, they can actually go on the system and pick the seats."

PM: There has been concern from folks who have had season tickets for years, some in the same spots, that they would not be able to get those seats or comparable ones because they ended up at a certain point in the ticket picking line. What kind of adversity have you faced in that sense?

CDC: "The whole system is based on our points system that was written in 2006. Why it was written in 2006 was we were going to be playing the University of Texas that year and we had to figure out a way to allot those tickets. So that system was written and approved by the Board of Trustees in 2006. When I got here in 2009, we used that same system to allocate seats for the Fiesta Bowl and the Rose Bowl solely based on the points system.

"At the time that it was written, there was no idea that we were going to build a new stadium. The design of the new stadium is completely different than the old stadium in that the old stadium had 104 rows. You went from zero to 69 rows and then you had the upper deck that created that extra bunch of rows. In this new stadium, we're missing 37 rows. It is only from zero to 67 so there's 37 rows missing. So a lot of people could say 'I used to sit here on the 40-yard-line on row 74 - it's no longer there.

"When we decided to build the new stadium, the funding model had to come privately, solely privately, or we couldn't do the stadium. The unintended consequence of that is you have to build suites - founders' suites and regular suites - in order for us to pay for the old stadium.

"We are very fortunate that the original stadium was only going to be half a stadium. When I got here, they said can you get to $104 million-$105 million and you have until June or we couldn't build the stadium. By the good fortune, people really got on board and we were able to raise in short order roughly $120, $130, $140 (million) and then we were able to do the entire stadium. Because the original design was only half. The fundraising went so well and people were so excited about the project, they'd buy a sweet for $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, $5 million or $15 million we were able to do the entire stadium - the end zone, the scoreboard, the locker rooms, new weight room, training rooms. So football will be completely finished and they will have everything they need to compete in the Big 12 for three years to come."

PM: Some of the other concerns were that certain people now have the right to choose more seats. How have you gone about that?

CDC: "Remember, the design of the stadium was made when we were in the Mountain West Conference. So we started looking at things when we went to the Big East and then the Big 12…In the early 90s when we left the Southwest Conference, we were in the WAC, Conference USA and the Mountain West. Those early years, we weren't drawing and our attendance was really down and we weren't doing very well on the field.

"And the NCAA mandates you have to average 15,000 in attendance in order to keep your Division I status. At that time, we started something called the TCU 100 where we asked people to buy 30, 40, 50, 60 tickets, 100 tickets - whatever they could afford at that time to make sure we brought our attendance up and did the things we needed to do.

"Well, those people, about 40 to 50 people, have been buying those large quantities of tickets since 1992. They bought them every single year. The stands have always been purple but they have been buying them and giving them to their employees.

"Fans came to us and said when we reseated the stadium that they wanted to sit together. (They said) 'I have been sitting with my best friend forever. I have eight tickets, he has eight tickets…I have 100 points and he has 300.' Well, you can choose to combine your tickets but you are going to have to come half way. You have to be willing to give up your rank…Well, they bought 16 tickets and a lot of people are combining their points.

"We had one group that came in together with five of them and they bought 45 tickets. They didn't buy any more tickets - that's what they had in their group of five or six. They averaged all their points out and said here you go. They had been sitting together forever and all their families had been sitting together.

(On the plus-four ticket model where fans can but four extra tickets): "Why we did the plus-four model was we said when we were in the Mountain West Conference and we were going to the Big East, all these decisions were made seven or eight months earlier. When we play Wyoming or we play UNLV, we're not completely sold out are were averaging 33, 34, 35, 36 thousand fans. Fans came to us and said we'd like to sit together- my kids are here, my grandkids are here - can you do the plus-four? When we were (headed to) the Big East, you are still going to bring in Rutgers, you are going to bring in Cincinnati - teams that still don't have local affiliation. So you don't know if they are going to bring fans and what we are going to draw to those particular games…When we were going to the Big 12 - those decisions were made a long time ago.

"When I priced the club (level) - 'What is he doing?! Those prices are way too high. No one is going to buy a club seat.' I was a little nervous about that…Now all of a sudden, we're going to the Big 12 - 'What is he doing?! Those prices are way too low…' All these things have happened in a two-year span but the process and the planning was happening six, seven, eight months ago. So we couldn't just reverse course because we changed course in three weeks. We were in the Big East and three weeks later we are in the Big 12. So you had already done the planning, all the forethought.

"It's interesting, someone with 1,800 points got a club seat. That's how far down it went. People said they were going to pass on it…Upon realizing we were missing 37 rows, we moved the students down and we raised the seats from the east side up and put 37 rows of chair-backs and bench-backs on that side as well - knowing that we were going to have Big 12 games at 11 (a.m.), 2 (p.m.) and 4 (p.m.) so that we'll all be in the sun. "

PM: There are particular areas, including the lower west side, that people have been concerned are going fast and they won't have a shot at picking.

CDC: "The lower west side right in the middle between the 35 (yard lines) there are only 11 rows. There used to be 22 so those seats were going to go quickly anyway. The thought process is…people are thinking about the old stadium when they see those seats are being taken. They are being taken in chunks like they've always been taken - there are just less rows."

PM: Since the announcement of the move to the Big 12, what kind of uptick have you seen in people wanting to get season tickets?

CDC: "We don't know because right now we are only doing the renewal. So we are in Week 3 of a six-week process. We still have to go to May 15th. We have 6,000 accounts so what we are doing is renewing all current season ticket holders then we are going to go to donors and alumni next that aren't season ticket holders. Then we'll go to the general public."

PM: What does TCU expect as far as a walk-up ticket standpoint goes given how in-demand tickets will be now that the Frogs are in the Big 12?

CDC: "When you talk about a goal of 30,000 - that's just a goal. Say we got to 30,000. You get 4,000 for visitors and 4,000 for students, 2,000 for recruiting, faculty, staff and all those things that come in there, you still have 5,000 more for individual game-day walkup because it seats 45,000. So it's hard to say…That's why we priced the ticket price at $200 for a season ticket. We are trying to give the fan the incentive to buy a season ticket because it roughly comes out to $30 a ticket. But an individual game might be $65 or $55 or $60. So we put the premium on people buying season tickets and the cherry-pickers that want to go watch an OU game or a Texas game or whatever it may be - that will be a premium ticket cost."

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