ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan Athletic Department will implement a Preferred Seating Program in Michigan Stadium, with seat location linked to donation levels, beginning in 2005. The plan is expected to raise $9.5 million annually for scholarships and capital projects once it is completely in place.
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"Requiring an annual seat donation for select season ticket locations is common among our peer institutions," said U-M director of athletics William C. Martin. "Michigan is the only school of the top 20 attendance leaders in college football that has not implemented a preferred seating program."
The Athletic Department, a self-supporting unit of the University, provides financial assistance to more than 700 U-M student-athletes who represent Michigan in intercollegiate competition. In addition to scholarship costs, the department must upgrade many of its aging facilities, which have not kept pace with the needs of student-athletes, Martin said.
"The department's reliance on private support increases each year as the cost of education and the resources necessary to maintain a quality athletics program escalate," said Martin. The U-M Athletic Department's private giving in 2002-03 was $3.7 million, far behind Big Ten peers Ohio State ($18.7 million), Penn State ($14.5 million) and Michigan State ($10 million).
The Preferred Seating Program will phase in donation requirements over a two-year period. The minimum annual donation will range from $125-$500 per ticket, depending on where the seats are located. According to current tax rules, donations will be 80 percent tax-deductible and will qualify for the tax credit for donations to public universities in the state of Michigan. Donations made to the department as part of the Preferred Seating Program also will give participants membership in the Victors Club.
Martin noted that the department has been planning carefully for this program over the past several years and has listened to fans in designing a program that is fair and takes into account their needs and concerns.
Michigan Stadium will not be re-seated, Martin said, so that all who choose to pay the required donation will be able to keep their current seats. Those who are not able to contribute at the specified level can have their tickets relocated to another preferred section where the donation requirement is lower, or to an area where a contribution is not required. Only 30 percent of the stadium's seats and 45 percent of season ticket holders will be subject to required donations.
One of the benefits of the program for fans is that it will allow ticket holders to have more influence over their seat location, Martin said. "The number one thing our fans have told us is that they want to know how they can improve their seats," he said.
Along with the Preferred Seating Program, the department will roll out a Priority Points Program that will help to allocate benefits such as access to better seats, allocation and assignment of away-game tickets, game-day parking permits, bowl tickets and admission for special athletic events. Points can be acquired through a number of different criteria, with the primary consideration being the ticket holders' charitable support of the Athletic Department. Other criteria will include charitable giving to the University and whether the person is a U-M degree holder, letterwinner, longtime season ticket holder or charter member of the Victors Club.
Victors Club participants who qualify and request consideration for such benefits will be sequenced in priority point order and assigned benefits according to individual priority ranking. In situations where demand exceeds the supply for tickets to athletic events, the point program will be used to determine who will receive tickets.
In addition, for the first time, the University will allow a one-year period, beginning May 1, 2004, for ticket holders to transfer tickets to the name of a family member or friend, in exchange for a tax-deductible donation of $500 per transferred ticket. Relaxing the transfer policy for a one-year period will allow season ticket holders to determine who will succeed them in their current ticket location, Martin said, and is a reward to longtime, loyal fans. The new ticket holder will be responsible for any applicable contributions associated with the season ticket location.
Details about the Preferred Seating Program can be found on the web at mgoblue.com/psd.
2004 Season Ticket Prices
For the 2004 football season, public season ticket prices will increase $3 per game in the Maize ($280 per ticket), Blue ($304), and Victors ($328) tiers with a student season ticket increasing $1 per game ($133). The total season ticket price is approximately eight percent less than last season due to one fewer home football game. Single-game tickets will be priced at $49, $53 and $57 for the Maize, Blue and Victors tiers, respectively. The Iowa and Michigan State games have been designated as premium games, with single ticket prices set at $54, $58 and $62 per tier.
Media Contacts: Bruce Madej, David Ablauf (734) 763-4423