Go East(side) ‘Cats Fans!

Northwestern football fans

Yesterday, Northwestern Athletics announced the Wildcat student section and band will be moving to the east side of the stadium.  Specifically, the 4,600 block of seats in the southeast corner of Ryan Field in sections 111-114 as highlighted below.

Northwestern seating chart

I love this move. Not only will the students and marching band get better seats with an actual view of the scoreboard, but there will be a significant section of guaranteed purple right in the view of television audiences. Unfortunately for Northwestern fans, we have not secured enough support to fill our stadium with almost all purple. I’m not happy about it and I know you’re not. In the meantime, opposing fans will be strategically tucked in to out-of-TV viewing areas as much as possible. Sections 134,135, 136, 234 and 235 are now designated for visitors.

Obviously, when 20,000+ opposing Nebraska and Wisconsin fans invade Ryan Field, no amount of visitor fan seat placement will be able to hide the opposing colors, but, I’m hoping this can limit some of the aesthetic damage.

The 2012 Nebraska game was a visual embarassment. The front page of Chicago papers were covered with a background that had nearly the entire east side as a sea of red. While the west side holds considerably more fans and it is usually mostly purple, that doesn’t translate to a TV audience. Optics matter.

The number one reason for doing this is recruiting. Many of our potential recruits watch our games on BTN. Considering the TV cameras are mostly set in the west facing east, the home viewing audience usually gets a heavy dose of opposing colors in every shot. BTN has figured this out and constantly reverses angles from the end zone cameras after scores to get the purple swath on the west side. Fan  support is a key metric for major recruits. When they are watching fellow suitors, this unique NU dynamic of opposing fan invasion doesn’t even enter their minds. I’ve said for years, the fact Fitz has done as well as he has recruiting despite one of the least homefield advantage experiences any of our recruits enjoy is nothing short of amazing.

As part of the announcement, Fitz has said the team will decide which sideline they’ll use on a week to week basis, acknowledging that whichever side gives them a homefield advantage. You could interpret this to mean time of year (think of the sun patterns) or, more likely, the size of the opposing crowd. Do you want to have the audio of your fans behind you, or a visual of all purple in front of you?

I’m hoping this move spurs many Wildcat fans to consider moving their seats to the east side. I’m in section 131, the section that is most directly affected as we had purposely selected to sit next to the band as our kids love the experience. Yet, I’m all for this move because it is good for the program. For those that remain, you can count on a much improved visual on the east side and presumably much better acoustics to enjoy actually hearing the band.

Season Ticket Pricing

Danny Ecker of Crain’s Chicago Business did a good job of explaining Northwestern’s new ticket pricing structure, which is tiered. Personally, I’m not happy with the timing of a second price increase in three years (after years of zero price increases) as the ‘Cats lackluster 2013 season makes higher prices a bit tougher to swallow. However, with a home slate that includes Cal, NIU, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan (note: NU intentionally left Illinois out of their language that promoted home date rivals), you can bet demand will be up, even if triggered by opposing fans.

Ecker explains the three-tiered system here:

In 2013, a season ticket for any seat along the sidelines of Ryan Field cost $262. Now, that will be broken into multiple sections that better reflect demand.

Midfield seats between the 40-yard lines, which make up just more than 20 percent of all seats, have jumped to $299.

Seats between the 20- and 40-yard lines, which comprise about 26 percent of the stadium, increased to $274.

Sidelines seats between the goal line and the 20-yard-line (about 10 percent of capacity) have decreased to $249 for the season, and corner sideline seats (12 percent of capacity) have dropped to $199.

Pricing for end zone seats ($149) is expanding by 20 percent to create more affordable pricing options that balance out the prime seating price increases. – Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago Business

In an interview with Ecker, NU’s head of marketing, Mike Polisky said “”It didn’t make sense for someone on the goal line to be paying the same as someone on the 50.”

Let’s face it, no fan likes ticket increases. It’s especially tough to swallow after the debacle that was the 2013 season. As a student, I remember the outrage we had our senior season when they announced student tickets would no longer be free. We bitched and moaned and said “go to the Rose Bowl and then we’ll happily pay full price for a ticket.” Well, that very season they did. In retrospect, greatest value of all-time for those 1995 students. This move is fully predicated on the sexy home schedule for 2014 and if NU were to return to their 2012 win level, I think most would be able to rationalize this.

If you want context, then this should do the trick. One of you recently forwarded me the Wisconsin Badgers recent price increase rationalization emails from the 2013 season which gave a great grid of 50-yard line seat prices and historical context of winning. As you can see, Northwestern had the best value in the B1G:

Wisconsin season tickets

Now, I’m intentionally leaving out information about NU’s new tiered parking lot contribution chart which I know has stoked the ire of many of you (me too). I want to get all of my facts straight before posting about it, but I will.

 

  • Bob Parkman

    The students are in great luck. Those are fabulous seats! You get the warmth of the sun, a picturesque view of the west stands, a great view of the action in the south half of the fleld and end zone and closer to the field. Not to mention the benches in 112-114 are deeper and spaced farther apart than anywhere else in the stadium.

    I should know – those have been my seats of choice for the last 25 years!

    I guess I have to move.

    • Peter Skills

      Not to mention most of the best concessions stands are under the SE bleachers.

      I’ve been saying for years we need to move the cameras to the East side to capture the bulk of the NU crowd and the picturesque facade of the West side. I guess it’s easier to flip the students/visitor’s section to accomplish the former.

      Another bonus, the band will now be playing towards most of the stadium.

      • Bandcat

        It sure will be nice to hear the NUMB during the game on the West side. Long overdue.Better late than never. Go Cats!

        • Ron

          Sure, never mind that it takes away the only shred of atmosphere we’ve had on the east side. You do know that you get the band at halftime and we don’t, right? Despite what we’re trained to believe, our band is far too small to adequately fill the stadium with sound. So, they face west for their entire show and let the rest of the stadium do without.

          • Bandcat

            Until the day comes that we can fill seats with Purple this scheme makes sense. Hopefully the Go U NU cheer will resonate at an audible level! Come on over and get out of the sun.

      • royko

        Having cameras on both sides of the field would be nice for replay reviews (as we learned in the OSU game).

  • cece

    so the visitors’ band goes where?

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      They would probably go in the corner on the Northwest side as part of the visitors’ allotment.

      • cece

        thanks. not liking that!

  • CatInTheHat

    I have to digest this a bit more to figure out how I really feel, but as an aside: How in the world can Illinois justify its season ticket prices???

    • Jim (C89)

      Maybe ‘cos there’s nothing else to do in Champaign-Urbana?

    • CatAlum06

      I thought the same thing. There’s got to be something we don’t know about that Illinois price- like you immediately get a $2k refund and it’s tax deductible or something. That’s double the cost of Bears season tickets!

    • CatsInMyPants

      Remember, that chart shows 50 yard line prices…other seats won’t cost near that or require donations for most of the schools. Illinois’ endzone packages arent far off from NU

  • cebpd

    Such Innovation!!!

    1. Detailed Sleep schedules.

    2. Nap-time.

    3. Optimizing practice times to give the team the best shot of performing well.

    4. Choosing which side of the field they are on to optimize home field advantage!

    5. An innovative offense used to cater to specific talents of players…getting Vitale, a matchup nightmare, always involved in the offfense! Throwing Fades to our 6’5 Reciever and letting him make a play!

    err…#5..wait what?

    Fitz needs to focus on giving the players an advantage on the field, not worrying about what sideline they are on. He needs to be an innovator on offense and defense…not about gameday atmosphere or Social media.

    Doubtful this would make any real difference. Still lukewarm optimism about this football season.

    • GTom

      C’mon. This is an Athletic Department marketing move. This has nothing to do with Fitz. I’m sure the most time that will go into picking a side is, “Who votes East… who votes West… looks like East won this week.”

      • Mark Wheaton

        “This has nothing to do with Fitz”. Yeah, and Chris Christie knew nothing about the traffic cones in Ft. Lee! You’re delusional if you think Fitz didn’t OK the plan to move the home sidelines…..

        • Ron

          He might have a veto power, but I’m quite sure he won’t be looking at the weekly ticket sales to determine which sideline to use.

        • GTom

          Maybe Fitz was in the grassy knoll as well… or maybe he’s the head of the Illuminati… or maybe it’s his conservative 4th quarter sausage strategy that causes the stadium to run out of hot dogs. I’m sure Fitz had a 5-10 minute, heck possibly even a 20-30 minute conversation with the Athletic Department along the lines of “Hey coach, we’re doing this, you OK with it?” Beyond that, I would be awfully surprised if this is really a serious distratction from running the team.

  • Alum Dad

    I sit in section 126. I feel the people in the prime sideline seats should be paying substantially more than $25 per seat more than me. That is less than $4.00 per game! Also, how do the people that have seats in Section 133 feel about this? Now you’re right next to “enemy territory”.

    I’m really looking forward to your post about football parking. The e-mail from NU wasn’t very clear, in my opinion. I want to know if there is any way one will be able to get golf course parking without any additional contribution to the Wildcat Fund. I’m still paying off tuition loans and home equity loans that I needed to send both my kids to NU. Not every NU season ticket holder is a rich alumnus.

    Lastly, I am irritated at every game when I see people sitting in the lower box seats that obviously haven’t paid for them. They see them sitting empty and decide to take a chance. I have never once seen an usher check anyone’s ticket in that area. Especially irritating when they are opposing fans.

    • GTom

      I spoke to my ticket Agent today about parking. He wasn’t commiting one way or the other until they see what happens during renewals, but he seemed to be under the impression that the only lots where parking will be impacted by the donation policy are the East and West lots by the stadium. I’m guessing the golf lot will be safe.

    • Ron

      Pricing changes have to be incremental. I am quite sure that you’ll see the differential between the “prime” seats and other seats grow a little at a time over the coming years.

  • Alum Dad

    Am I the only one that doesn’t feel a view of our “scoreboard” is a plus for our students? The scoreboards at Ryan Field and Welsh Ryan are complete jokes.

    • Steve

      I always thought it was stupid that the students couldn’t see “‘CatVision” due to the large speakers in between the student section and the micro-tron. It doesn’t hurt to at least have it visible. On the plus side as well, if I get endzone tickets I’m closer, not further, from the students.

      • Ron

        Well they’re sure less likely to see it in their new location. I have no idea what LTP is talking about on that one. The video screen is aimed at the west side. The angle from the east is so poor as to make it effectively worthless.

        • Johnathan Wood

          they really need to just add a 2nd screen on the opposite tower (southwest side of the stadium). Would that be so hard?

      • http://www.markgraban.com/ Mark Graban

        Our scoreboard is an embarrassment.

        • Steve

          I’m sure if we put enough points on it (in the right place), the money will arrive to have a new scoreboard.

    • http://www.LakeThePosts.com/ LTP

      Indeed. The scoreboards stink. Welsh-Ryan is getting a $2MM new scoreboard for next season, Ryan Field needs one (or two) new ones badly. Would love to see a giant one in south end zone.

  • gocatseve

    I’ve been on the east side in Section 109 fighting the good fight for over 15 years. I was elated to hear the news and know we’ll be next to a sea of purple for a change. Personally, the only drawback is the new ticket pricing. We’re right on the aisle next to Section 110. That means the person sitting four feet to my left will be paying $25 per ticket less. I thought they were increasing ticket prices for those between the 40 yard lines. We’re at the 30. Oh, well… Now I’ve got to decide whether to pay the $600 donation to move up a tier for the parking permit or roll the dice and hope my points get me the east side parking lot like it has for the past 10 years.

  • Alum Dad

    I would pay extra if they agreed to discontinue “Put Your Hands in the Air”. That really makes it feel like Amateur Hour at Ryan Field.

    • GTom

      I’m not a fan of it myself, but everyone who I bring to the games loves it. I’m starting to feel like a crumudgeon not joining in on the fun (amongst other reasons), and I suspect it’s here to stay whether we like it or not. That said, I would give anything to discontinue the “Play of the Game” that they show with four minutes still left and the game very much in contention.

      • Philip Rossman-Reich

        That is kind of how I felt about the whole jersey thing. I remember thinking the WWP jerseys vs. Michigan were ugly. But there were a few pre-teens sitting around me and when Northwestern ran onto the field they shouted, “Look at those jerseys! They are sick!” Can’t believe I am out of touch at 25!

        • GTom

          In only gets worse with time, PRR!

    • Ron

      especially on the east side, Oh wait, I forgot. The visitors were only in the corner seats all these years.

    • CliffG

      It IS amateur hour, right? Go to the Bears games.

    • WildcatSteve

      I’m reminded of this every time I hear that popular Lorde song with the line “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air.”

  • KentuckyWildcat

    I don’t understand…why not move the TV cameras?

    • Johnny Utah

      You can’t move the cameras without moving the press box.

  • rachel

    LTP-we are currently in 131 on the aisle and loved being by the band. Will section 110 be the new 131?

    • tewhalen

      Yeah, I’m in 131 specifically because I want to be band-adjacent. Should I think about moving over to the east side?

      • NG

        confirmed with ticket rep that band will be in front of section 111; so 110 will be band-adjacent and effectively the new section 131.

      • http://www.LakeThePosts.com/ LTP

        That’s what i’ll be doing.

      • cece

        seems you will be band adjacent. just not the band you want.

  • Johnathan Wood

    Have they announced where the grad student/young alumni section will be?

    • NG

      whereever they want to be. there is no designated section for YA anymore–alums can buy tickets in whatever sections are available with a 20% discount off the listed pricepoints. those will then become their permanent seats for as long as they choose to renew them, just like any other season ticket holder.

      • Johnathan Wood

        that’s an interesting policy change. I would assume the same goes for grad students (that would be me)

  • PurpleHayes

    Seating moves make sense (advantage to we west-siders, I realize, so I’m biased), but in the end it’s all about TV. Student section in camera range is a winner. Still can’t understand the flip-flopping sides for the benches, though. Feels random. Decision based on what? Whether we won last week? Where Fitz’s Mom sits? Whether the sun is out? (If the clouds break at halftime, will we ask the opponent to switch? Only slightly less crazy than offense always going R-to-L at Wrigley). Part of the home-field advantage, I thought, is a consistent and familiar look/feel for the hometown players. Why change then?

    • Catatonic Joe

      Avoid the sun on a hot day, get the sun on a cold day, have the wind at your back on the sideline? maybe just to convince people to move East?

    • PBRCat

      The families and friends of the coaches and staff usually sit in the West stands.

      Barnett used to have his bench on the East side of the stadium because he did not want an opponent to have a spy in the press box watching him.
      Not sold on flipping the bench location back and forth constantly.

      The scoreboard is problematic; the video segments need to be rethought — sometimes the lettering and the purple and black backgrounds are not legible.

      Fix the sound system throughout the stadium already and ditch the speaker columns on Randy Walker Terrace.

      The price increase is not sitting too well given the 2013 product.

  • Db

    NU is a small school and doesn’t have enough interested alums to fill the best seats, i.e. between the 20 yard lines on both sides of the field. As such put our students in these seats and not in a corner section. I remember at the Cal game last year, our NU fans were in one of the corner sections set aside for visitors. Why do we treat our students like visitors in our home stadium? I can understand keeping the best seats for alum more than willing to pay a large surcharge fee in schools with over 40,000 students like Michigan and Ohio State but that’s not the case at NU. After all we get most of our revenue from our equal share in Big earnings from bowls and TV.

  • DRB

    Being that our season tickets are right next to the former student section I am disappointed. The energy from the students gave the feeling that we were in a NU dominate crowd. I don’t want to sit by our opponents fans. I requested we be moved South when I renewed our tickets. It is what it, but it isn’t better for everyone

  • cece

    the portrayal of the most expensive tickets as being between the 40s is not correct. sections 128 and 130 actually go beyond the 40. it’s the three middle sections, it’s not based on yard lines.

West Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Minnesota1000
Purdue1000
Iowa1000
Nebraska1000
Illinois1000
Northwestern0100
Wisconsin0100

East Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Rutgers1000
Penn State1000
Michigan1000
Michigan State1000
Ohio State1000
Indiana1000
Maryland1000