Go East(side) ‘Cats 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.
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:
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.