KU’s Perkins eyeing priority seating plan

Lew Perkins hopes to turn Kansas University men’s basketball revenue from a cash cow into a cash herd as soon as possible.

Perkins, who took over as KU’s athletic director July 7, confirmed Thursday he planned to generate millions of dollars in additional revenue by implementing a priority seating plan for Allen Fieldhouse, starting with the 2004-05 season.

“Right now, it’s very, very premature,” Perkins said. “We don’t even have a plan yet. But it will be based on contributions, not raising ticket prices.”

Ticket prices for the 2003-04 season were boosted a month before Perkins was hired. Last season, all seats cost $30. This season, the fieldhouse will be divided into three price categories. Seats in the prime areas between the end zones, including all of the chairback seats, will cost $35. The remaining public and faculty-staff reserved seats will cost $32. General admission and student seating will remain at $30.

In addition, KU athletic department officials targeted several people with prime seats who weren’t donating to the Williams Fund, advising them they would be moved to less desirable seats if they didn’t boost their contributions.

Two longtime season ticket holders filed a lawsuit in response. A request for a temporary injunction was denied, but attorneys filed an amended petition, which currently is awaiting a hearing.

The new fieldhouse plan, when implemented, might result in more lawsuits and bring more heat on Perkins.

“Hopefully, it won’t,” Perkins said, “but we have to create some new revenue.”

Developing the framework for the new plan won’t begin, Perkins said, until Brandon Macneill joins the athletic department in October. Perkins hired Macneill as the department’s strategic planner earlier this month, but Macneill, who is Perkins’ son-in-law, won’t be able to leave his marketing duties at Princeton University until then.

Perkins said he envisions a points system for tickets based on contributions, longevity and other factors. It’s similar to one proposed in April of 2001 by KU athletic director Bob Frederick who noted at the time that similar plans had become commonplace around the country.

No priority seating plan ever was developed, however, and the idea eventually was dropped during Al Bohl’s 20-month stint as AD, largely because the proposal drew a firestorm of controversy from many fans who complained tickets to KU men’s basketball games would be restricted to the wealthy.

Any priority seating plan likely would involve slightly more than half the seats in the 16,300-seat fieldhouse. Unaffected would be students, faculty and staff members who account for about 7,800 seats.

In other KU athletic department news:

  • Perkins is advertising for a new senior woman administrator to replace Janelle Martin, who left late last month. The salary range is listed as $110,000 to $130,000. Martin was believed to be making around $70,000. “You have to pay to get good people,” said Perkins, who did not advertise for Macneill’s position or for the associate AD jobs held by new hires Jim Marchiony and Larry Keating.
  • Doug Vance, KU’s associate athletic director for communications, hasn’t been in his office for nearly a month and is expected to announce soon he’ll be leaving. “The ball is in my court,” Vance said. “I just haven’t made a decision.” Perkins has said he hopes Vance stays.
While Lew Perkins has released no specifics about a possible points plan for priority seating at Allen Fieldhouse, Connecticut has such a plan for seating in men’s basketball. Here are details of the plan implemented at UConn during the Perkins era.¢ According to materials provided to season-ticket holders and donors, “the UConn men’s basketball venue is reseated each year to allow UConn club members to improve seating annually. The system is based on annual giving and longevity in the club.”In the points system at UConn, one point is earned for every $100 pledge contributed to the fund for the current pledge year. One bonus point is earned for every $100 contributed to the athletics department fund. Two member points are earned for each pledge year with a minimum donation of $50. Points accrue and are permanent.As an example, if a club member makes a $5,000 pledge/donation in 2003-04. Based on the formula, that person would receive 50 permanent donation points, 50 bonus points and two member points for 102 total.With 102 points, that person would be eligible to buy two tickets for men’s basketball.Why two? Those with 2 to 39 points are not eligible to order tickets. Those with 40 to 274 points may order two tickets. Those with 275 points and above may order four tickets, but are guaranteed two.¢ More information on points: A $50 contribution qualifies a donor to receive priority points. Points and season ticket priorities may not be transferred.Donor points are updated upon receipt of a pledge or outright donation. Point totals are provided to the donor periodically throughout the year. Donor should not forget bonus points are not cumulative and are subtracted at the end of each pledge year. Donors receive priority points relative to annual and cumulative giving.