Director of Athletics Monthly Column



Aug. 12, 2003

Columbia, Mo. - In July we released the seating plan for our new basketball arena, which is set to open on October 1, 2004.

As with anything we do in college athletics, the plan received a great deal of attention, both from the media and the public. Unfortunately, not all accounts of our plan were accurately reported. In an effort to explain things better, we have put together the following facts sheet about our seating plan.

Director of Athletics Mike Alden

While we've received numerous calls from fans and donors who have been confused by misinformation, we received over 150 Letters of Intent (LOI) to purchase more than 400 seats in the first 10 days after the plan was announced. Those LOI's are not due until January 31, 2004.

When you've read through this information, we hope you'll come to understand two things:

1. Over the long haul, the cost to be a season-ticket holder - in virtually every seating area - will be either cheaper, or remain the same, in the new arena as current prices in Hearnes;

2. More fans will be able to purchase affordable season tickets in the new arena than in Hearnes.

There are two assumptions that need to be made in coming to this understanding. Given the hard data we have from years of donations from thousands of donors, as well as the affinity those donors and all of our fans continue to have for the Tigers, we feel these are very safe assumptions:

1. Season-ticket purchases are for multiple seats per donor. Very rarely does one buy just a single season ticket - remember, we're talking about season tickets, not a single-game purchase. We do, of course, occasionally sell "singles" on a per-game basis, but this seating plan involves season tickets.

2. Donors who purchase season tickets do so for more than just a year or two. Tiger fans are very loyal. Our renewal rate for basketball season tickets is over 90 percent. We rarely have people purchase season tickets for just a year or two, and that piece of information is crucial to understanding that tickets will be cheaper in the new arena over the long haul - five years and longer.

A great deal of attention has been given in the media to the "Leadership Gift" of $25,000 or more that is required to purchase seats in Area 1 (courtside) or Area 2 (seating across from the team benches that would be analogous to "A" section in Hearnes). Unfortunately, most of it has been incorrect or misleading.

  • The Leadership Gift is a one-time donation that goes toward the athletic department's capital campaign to improve facilities in the Sports Park at MU. It is part of a University-wide capital campaign effort.
  • The Leadership Gift is per donor, not per seat; that means the cost of the $25,000 will be spread out over the number of seats that donor purchases. Five other seating sections also will have donation requirements toward the capital campaign, ranging from $125 to $1,000, and unlike the Leadership Gift, donations in those sections are indeed per seat. Only the Leadership Gift of $25,000 is exempt from a per-seat gift to the capital campaign.
  • In addition, people do not understand that payment of the $25,000 can be spread over the course of a five-year period. While it is true that donors could elect to pay the entire sum up front, common fiscal sense reasons that donors will take advantage of the opportunity to spread the payments out to $5,000 per year.
  • When that is done, we can start to run the numbers on the cost of courtside seats:
    Annual TSF gift per seat - ARENA = $5,000
    Multiply by four seats = $20,000
    Multiply by five years = $100,000
    Add Leadership Gift (one-time) = $125,000

    Of course, $125,000 is a lot of money, but consider this: Even with the one-time campaign gift included, it's cheaper than what those donors are paying in the Hearnes Center right now:

    Annual TSF gift per seat - HEARNES = $7,500
    Multiply by four seats = $30,000
    Multiply by five years = $150,000

  • Another source of frustration has centered around the amount of publicity these expensive seats have generated. There have been outlets who have attempted to make it sound like the average fan has been priced out of a ticket in the new arena, and that couldn't be further from the truth.
  • The seats that are being sensationalized, the courtside seats in Area 1, comprise just 52 seats - less than 1/3 of one percent of the 15,000 fans. That's just 20 more courtside seats than in Hearnes, which have been sold out. In actuality, we're talking about just 5-10 more individuals to purchase multiple-seat packages at courtside in the new arena.
  • To take a closer look at some of the seating options, consider this chart:

    Area(s) Location(s) Gift to Capital Campaign (1-time) TSF Donation (annual) Seats Pct. of Arena
    1 Courtside $25,000 $5,000 52 0.03
    1 & 2 Courtside/Club $25,000 $2-5,000 452 3.01
    7 & 8 Mid/Upper Baseline, Upper Sideline NONE $125-250 4,200 28.00
    9, SS, FSA Upper Sideline, Student Section, Family Seating Area NONE NONE 6,000 40.00

  • As you can see, the total number of seats requiring a Leadership Gift of $25,000 or more - in Areas 1-2 - is just 452. That's 3.01 percent of the seats in the new arena.
  • Forty percent of the arena, including the entire 4,500-seat student section, Area 9, and our Family Seating Area - require no donation whatsoever. In addition, 4,200 seats - 28 percent of the arena, in Areas 7 and 8 - require no capital campaign donation and an annual TSF donation of just $250 or less.
  • A fan may be able to sit in the lower bowl in the new arena for an annual TSF gift of anywhere from $250 to $5,000. To compare with sections A & B at the Hearnes Center, those minimum contribution levels are from $1,500 to $7,500.
  • The design of the arena is such that a fan sitting in the very last row of the new arena will be roughly as far away from the court as a person sitting in the last row of "C" section at the Hearnes Center. HOW DID WE DO THAT?
    • As you know, there are concourses separating "A" section from "B" and "B" from "C" at the Hearnes Center. Those areas have been removed, and the seating condensed closer to the court, in the new arena. There will be just two seating bowls in the new arena, and 60 percent of the seating will be in the lower bowl.
  • The capital campaign gift is NOT a Personal Seat License (PSL) that has become the norm in professional sports, particularly football. Fans do not own the seats in perpetuity, nor do they have the rights to transfer ownership to others. The benefit, though, is that 100 percent of the capital campaign gift is tax-deductible; PSL's are not tax-deductible. In addition, new donors who get seats starting in Year 6 of the arena will not have to donate to the capital campaign; they will only be responsible for the annual donation to TSF.

    If you have any questions, or are unsure about the details of the seating plan, please feel free to contact any of the following people:

    John Rasmussen Chet Savage
    Director, Tiger Scholarship Fund Assistant Director, Tiger Scholarship Fund
    (573) 882-5188 (573) 882-5179

    Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read this column. If you have any questions about this topic, or anything related to collegiate athletics at the University of Missouri, please feel free to contact me by e-mail at

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