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Penn State Football: Season-Ticket Sales Decline; STEP Called a Financial Success

on September 05, 2011 12:48 PM

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Season-ticket sales for Penn State football this year are down a projected 3,000 to 4,000 seats from their standard levels, as the university implements the much-publicized STEP program, Associate Athletic Director Greg Myford said last week.

He said the football program typically sells about 72,000 season tickets for the 107,282-capacity Beaver Stadium. Shortly before the season-opening game Saturday, Myford said, the program had sold something in the neighborhood of 69,000 season tickets.

But "I anticipate that we'll be right back to where we were (in overall season-ticket sales) heading into next year," he said.

In the meantime, any leftover seats that had been put aside for 2011 season tickets will now be available for single-game ticket sales. Myford said those single-game ticket sales thus far have been above average, thanks largely to a 2011 home-game schedule that includes big names such as Alabama and Nebraska. (Still, the announced attendance at Saturday's season opener -- 96,461 -- was one of the lowest figures at Beaver Stadium in about a decade.)

The season-ticket sales decline appears connected primarily to STEP, the Seat Equity and Transfer Plan that Penn State began to introduce in 2009. Starting with the 2011 season, season-ticket holders are now required to make minimum annual contributions to the Nittany Lion Club.

Those contribution requirements vary, hinging on several factors, including seat location. The required contributions range from $100 to $2,000 per seat for the 2011 football season. And extra parking privileges now require additional Nittany Lion Club contributions, as well.

Myford said the estimated annual revenue increase stemming from STEP -- even after the season-ticket-volume decline -- is expected reach $4 million to $6 million. The football program's overall reported revenue in 2010 was $70.2 million -- $50.4 million of which was listed as profit.

That profit goes to support other athletic functions at Penn State.

Penn State has said the added revenue from STEP will help cover escalating athletic-program expenses at the university, including those for tuition, travel, medical care, insurance, facility maintenance and construction. The university's football program had been the only major one in the country that didn't "align football-season ticket locations and donor giving levels," according to an earlier prepared statement.

Had it not made any changes to its revenue model, the university athletics department would have been on track to fall into the red within about four years, Myford said.

"We knew we had to position ourselves now" to prevent that from happening, he said. He underscored that STEP is also meant to "realign the seating plan ... so that the best seats (are) made available to those who provide the best support of athletics."

STEP "has been financially successful," Myford added. "It has done what we needed it to do. We are very pleased with that aspect of it."

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