ATHENS — It’s going to cost you more to go to Georgia football games starting in 2017. I’m eager to hear how season-ticket holders feel about that.
I was at the Ritz Carlton Lodge on Lake Oconee on Thursday when the Bulldogs announced that the minimum donation to the Hartman Fund — which only gives one the privilege to buy season football tickets — was going up an average of 17.3 percent across the board. Athletic Director Greg McGarity requested the increase at the end-of-the-year board meeting and pointed out that it was the first such increase the board has approved since 2005.
It does, however, follow rather closely Georgia’s decision to raise the prices of the actual tickets themselves. Those went up $5 in 2015 (to $45 each) and they’ll go up another $5 in 2017 (to $50). That was based on a board action taken in 2014. I’m not sure why they didn’t just raise them by $10 in 2015 and be done with it, but that’s a different story. In any case, that’s per seat per game.
McGarity used “peer data” to point out that, even after the increases, Georgia remains “sixth to 10th” among SEC schools in overall ticket costs. He said right around the middle is right about where the Bulldogs want to be, and they’re behind Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, LSU and Texas A&M at the moment.
I guess my question to actual ticket holders is, “is that where you want to be?”
The way UGA has parceled out these increases over the last few years makes it seem fairly benign, for sure. But $5 here, $400 there adds up pretty quickly. How much is too much? Are you there yet? And what about all that new money coming into the SEC these days?
Now I realize the general fan base is made up largely of alumni and degree holders and is for the most part well-to-do, if not downright wealthy. Clearly the financial requirements haven’t deterred sales. Once again, UGA has sold out of its allotment for the coming season — 58,000 strong. It’s done that every year this century, I believe.
But the actual costs for being a season-ticket holder is no joke. Let’s think about it.
Never mind the “Big Dawgs” (my term, not UGA’s) who occupy the SkySuites and Club levels. They’re not concerned about these incremental increases. Let’s focus more on the average Georgia football fan. Of the 58,000 season-ticket holders, nearly half of them sit in the lower-level sections outside the 10-yard line or in the end zones or in the middle sections of the upper levels.
If you have a family of four and you’re going to secure tickets for the 2018 season (when Georgia has a full boat of seven home games as opposed to six in 2017), that will cost you $50 per seat ($200) for the seven games ($1,400), plus your donation of $375 per seat to the Hartman Fund ($1,300). So you’re stroking a check for $2,900. And you’ll need to get that donation in by mid-February, thank you.
Now that’s just the family of four in the modest seats. Some get two tickets, some get eight, and so on. I’m told by UGA that on average just under four tickets per order are processed. Thanks to the great country and great state we live in, that’s not a problem for this demographic. Obviously.
As of April, Georgia brought in $24.9 million in football ticket revenue and contributions totaling $24.4 million for this year. So UGA athletics is one healthy enterprise.
And so is the SEC. Remember, all these increases are coming at a time when the conference is raking in and redistributing to its membership record amounts of money. Thanks to the SEC television network finally coming of age, the league last year divvied up $455.8 million, which resulted in checks of $31.2 million for each member school and the SEC itself. That’s a pretty good year.
I asked UGA President Jere Morehead if he expected to come back to Athens with a similar check after the SEC meetings in Destin week.
“I think it’s been another strong year for the SEC, but (the conference) hasn’t shared with me or the other presidents any of the details at this point,” he said.
Sounds like it should be another good year conference-wide. Still, UGA felt the need to raise ticket prices.
We were told that this initial Hartman increase will generate an additional $2.5 million dollars. UGA plans put toward a line of credit which will essentially allow it to put the money back toward the stadium, according to McGarity.
“The money we’re raising goes back into the funds it may take to build certain things in the stadium,” he said.
As you may have heard, the Bulldogs now plan to build a new locker room and recruiting space behind the West End grandstands and underneath Sanford Bridge. They outlaid $1 million from the reserve fund on Thursday to hire architects for the building and design phase of that. There are tentative plans to do some stuff underneath the East grandstands after that.
The board approved another $8 million-plus to come out of the reserve for facility improvements for basketball, soccer, tennis and track, as well.
“Those projects are going to be expensive,” Morehead said. “And the cost of operating our athletic program each year continues to rise, particularly as you look at the enhancements that are being provided to our student-athletes and to the support that we’re providing them. … This is the first of what (McGarity) contemplates will be many, assuming that we continue to get large contributions to help defray some of these costs going forward.”
Yes, the Facility Arms Race in the SEC is full on, folks. You may recall that little indoor building that’s being erected on South Campus. UGA fans stepped up for that to the tune of $26 million of what’s projected to cost about $31 million when finished.
So Georgia fans continue to come through for the Bulldogs. The question is, do you feel are they coming through for you?