Friday, May 13, 2005
'A big decision'
Tech reassigns seats in Lane Stadium in an effort to reward generous donors. How did the reseating work out for you? Talk on the message boards.
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Twitter: Andy Bitter
"I could've done it by phone, but I wouldn't have got to walk up and down the steps with her 10 times," cracked Mann, of Carrollton, Va. Tech, which sold 37,411 season tickets last year, is reassigning the seats in Lane Stadium in an effort to reward generous donors. Since April 21, Hokie Club donors have come to Lane Stadium to study seating charts and pick their new seats, a process that will continue through Wednesday. Hokie Club officials have been helping about 170 donors or donor families make their choices each day.
"This is a big decision," said Storms, of Richmond.
Lane season-ticket holders had previously been able to keep their same seats when they renewed. This year, many must move to make room for bigger donors to the Hokie Club, the athletic department's fund-raising arm. Tech has been planning since 2002 to reassign seats in conjunction with the stadium's west-side expansion. Season-ticket holders were notified in October of the pecking order for how seats will be allocated.
"We wanted to be in the ACC [Atlantic Coast Conference]. We're now in the ACC. Be careful what you wish for," said Jerry Gough of Williamsburg, whose former seats on the 30-yard line were already taken when he came for his appointment Wednesday. "When we bought those seats, we had just come off a 2-8-1 season, so there wasn't a high demand. Now we're ACC champs; there's a huge demand. This is the way the world works. I don't like it, but I understand. We've got to be competitive."
Tom Crockett of Roanoke wished he had his old seats on the 20-yard line instead of his new ones on the 10-yard line. But he said reseating is understandable.
"Newer people have come aboard the last 10 years and given them big money, and it chases the little guys out," he said. "It's either that [reseating] or win two ballgames a year."
Tech still wants to recognize the loyalty of long-time season-ticket buyers who might not be able to donate a lot, so the priority for assigning seats alternates between donation levels and years of season-ticket purchases.
Hokie Club members at the Golden Hokie level - those who give $2,000 to $4,999 per year - have been picking their seats since May 2. Joe Gray of Roanoke wasn't happy Wednesday that so many seats between the 40-yard lines had already been gobbled up.
But some people had priority over the 2,400 Golden Hokies in the Hokie Club. Fans who have bought season tickets every year since 1966 got to keep their seats. Then came annual Hokie Club donors of $5,000 or more; they got to buy six tickets apiece. Then came people who were season-ticket buyers for at least 35 straight years; they got to buy four tickets apiece. It was then time for the Golden Hokies; they also get to buy four tickets apiece.
"People have kind of picked in the center of the field. They've left the high seats and the real low seats, even on the 50-yard line," assistant athletic director for ticketing services Sandy Smith said. "Somebody can come and still get within the 40-yard lines in the east stands up high."
Before the process began, some seats at midfield were set aside for players' families. Seats elsewhere in the stadium were set aside for corporate sponsors, recruits and Tech officials.
The picking is done in a club in the south end-zone addition to Lane Stadium. Donors had been assigned their appointment times based on their giving levels. In a waiting area, donors who show up early study seating charts. Squares representing the seats that have already been picked are colored in by Hokie Club officials.
When their names are called, people go to the other side of the room, where much bigger seating charts are displayed. Some people then spend more than an hour making a decision. Some donors go out into the stands to get a better feel for their options; they aren't allowed to go into the west stands because of the construction. After donors make their decision, the selections are entered into a computer and the squares on the big boards are colored in.
"I found four perfect ones over here [in the waiting area] and by the time I got over there [to the big boards], they were gone," Tom Wall of Raleigh, N.C., said.
About 2,500 donors have gone through the process so far.
"I thought it was going to be real complicated, but it was so easy," Jennifer Clevenger of Blacksburg said. "I like the personal touch. The charts are nice and big, so it made it real easy to see exactly what you wanted."
People who couldn't get off work or didn't want to make the trip to Tech were able to choose their seats over the phone at their appointed time.
"It looks like draft day for the NFL," said Scott Davis, the assistant director of athletic development.
Storms and Mann found that their seats from last season were available but opted to move elsewhere. Chuck and Becky Ernest of Greensboro, N.C., had to move but found seats only a few rows up from where they used to sit.
"I was apprehensive, but for me it worked out great because I'm about right back where I was," Chuck Ernest said.
Greg Moser, on the other hand, lost his "great seats" halfway up the stands on the 50-yard line and wound up with seats much higher up on the 50.
Reseating "is something they need to do," said Moser, of Richmond. "The name of the game is money."
The Golden Hokies are the final group on the priority ladder who will get to pick their seats in person. Everyone else will have their seats assigned based on the preference forms they mailed in.
"My boss is a Silver Hokie. He's sweating bullets," Mann said.