The Michigan Athletic Department announced yesterday that in
2005 it will employ a preferred seating program in Michigan
Stadium, in which seat location for non-students will largely rely
on donation levels.

“Requiring an annual seat donation for select season
ticket locations is common among our peer institutions,”
Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin said. “Michigan is the
only school of the top 20 attendance leaders in college football
that has not implemented a preferred seating program.”

Once the program is fully operational, the self-supported
athletic department plans that it will mill raise $9.5 million
annually. These earnings will benefit the entire athletic
department by funding scholarships and facility improvements,
Martin said.

“A lot of people think (the funds effect) just football,
but we’re a department of intercollegiate athletics,
we’re not simply a department of intercollegiate
football,” said Joe Parker, associate athletic airector for
Development. “A lot of people feel like it should directly
benefit football, and football gets a lot of attention and we
always want to make sure it’s appropriately resourced. But,
at the same time, we’re trying to meet the needs for 24 other
sports teams.”

This preferred seating program affects 31 percent of Michigan
Stadium’s seats, but leaves ticket prices unchanged for all
students, except seniors who will graduate before the fall. Season
ticket holders in these preferred areas will be required to make a
payment ranging from $125 to $500 per ticket, depending on seat
location. The payment is 80-percent tax deductible. People who
participate in the program will become members of the Victors
Club.

Season ticket holders currently in the preferred seating area
who do not make donations will be given options for an alternative
seating location. For just one year — May 1, 2004 through
April 30, 2005 — a ticket holder will be able to transfer
tickets to another person by providing a $500 tax-deductible
donation for each seat.

“A lot of people look at it as a seat license, and
I’d say it’s not really that,” Parker said.
“We’re encouraging philanthropy and for those people
that are willing to make the gift, they get the benefit of a better
site line (in Michigan Stadium). Over time people will become more
comfortable making that donation, and they will view it more and
more as philanthropy, and they will get what their true capacity is
to support our scholarship initiative and our facility
needs.” Parker said that although the program has only been
in existence for one day, the general reaction has been
“pretty favorable.”

“If you look at schools that have a stadium of similar
size like Penn State or Ohio State or Tennessee, all of those
schools have annual ticket programs in excess of $14
million,” Parker said. “The best year we’ve ever
had in Michigan athletics’ annual giving program is about $4
million.”

The program has been in the works for many years, and Athletic
Department officials said they have taken substantial time
entertaining different ideas that would cater to fans’ needs
and concerns.

“In the late ’90s we found ourselves in a little bit
of trouble related to our ability to balance our budget,”
Parker said. “It was at that time that everyone started
looking at, ‘Okay, what are the ways we can enhance our
ability to generate funds to support the athletic program?’

Another fundraising strategy that the athletic department has
considered in recent years is corporate sponsorship in Michigan
Stadium.

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