So I have been waiting for approval from the Victors Club staff to "officially" talk about my experience signing up for Club Seats for 2010. I received it today, and I would like to share my experience with the process and make some recommendations for those interested.
As background, I am a graduate of the University, but I have no affiliation/relationship with the University beyond my undergraduate education. My wife (who is also a grad) and I live in Columbus and for the last few years have purchased the 1-2 game ticket packages each year, but never have made donations to earn the right to have season tickets.
With the team struggling (on top of living in Columbus), instead of becoming less of a fan, it only strengthened our resolve. I also become a MGoBlog lurker and started to follow recruiting (which I have not done in year's past). Anyway, when I found out about the club seating, it really became a project that I have had fun with over the last three months.
I have been working with Ted Ledbetter the Assistant Director of Development. His email and phone number are in the link below:
Ted was fantastic to deal with. I am a bit high maintenance when it comes to decisions that have a lot of options and things to learn, and he was very patient with me and treated me better than I would have expected.
In the beginning, I knew a bit about priority points and assumed that I might not be eligible to purchase club seating seeing that I was starting off with only 10 points (= to $1,000 in donations or if you and your spouse are UofM grads). From what I had heard and read, getting "good" stadium seats required many years of donations of thousands of dollars.
"All first time assignments for Michigan football season tickets from the public waiting list are determined based upon annual gifts to the Victors Club. For example, in 2008, a person donating $1500 or more was offered 2 season tickets in the end zone."
So when I heard that you could get club seats w/o a prior priority point minimum, that peaked my interest, even though the thought of paying that much for just the right to buy season tickets seemed daunting (or at least not practical). On top of that, the club seats are renewable, so if you can make the yearly donation (80% of which is tax deductible) you can keep your seats for years to come. The rub is, if you drop out of the club and want back in in later years, your eligibility will be based on your priority points if there is a waiting list ... so this is not good for those that are early in their priority point status. In other words, I felt that if I don't get in now, I would likely have a significant problem getting in later. So it was the opportunity to get season tickets for the 1st time and have the right to renew them with a priority point total that may be much less than "good" seats in the stadium bowl.
Over time I had an easier time rationalizing the expense ... although to be honest, it still seems a bit outrageous. What made me feel better is that there is a good chance I can go to every game (just under a 3 hour drive) AND, with club seats, you have the option to get a football season parking pass. If you are not aware there are 6 tiers of parking, also based on priority points ... the best being the Blue lot right next to the stadium's East Side. Up until 2010, I as most fans, had to find parking wherever I could find a spot (someone's front yard for $20-$30, etc.).
I did have seating/pricing options. There are 4 pricing tiers in the East Side (two floors), and 1 tier on the West Side (for chair-back seats w/o access to "the club") .
If you put your mouse on the colored sections, you can see how many seats are STILL AVAILABLE and it's associated annual donation requirement. Clicking on the section will show you the exact seats that are open, not to mention a link that shows you a panoramic picture of the actual view from the section (click on the binocular icon).
I have a good professional job, but I am not rolling in dough ... so like I stated before, I was concerned about the practicality of the donation requirement. I personally, did not want to consider any sections other than Zone 3 or 2. I initially was so concerned about the expense, I stuck to zone 3. I sent the money in and locked down my seats just after the 1st of the year. At the time this was my justification:
- Ted said, I would be surprised to know that the view from zone 3 was really not bad, in fact he personally felt that it was the best value all things considered. The height of the seats avoid a loss in depth perception, even at the far corner of the field. This would not be the case if you were closer to the field in the stadium seats.
- The club, the club, the club ... so what is that all about. I remember Ted told me the 1st day we talked, that once I had the club experience he believed that most people would have a hard time giving that up. That is not to say the stadium experience is worse, it is just so nice to have the club amenities, it would likely spoil you. The club will have special access not only when you are inside the stadium, but will also have special access (by the Blue Lot) to get into the stadium property vs. going through the main security/ticket taking gates. There will be elevator (and stairway) access, private bathrooms, and premium food stations (Ted said the menu was still being finalized but there would be items like steak/filet sandwiches). Please take a look at these renderings (click the rendering link on this page):
One thing I noticed was the bar stools that were up against the windows. So I thought, those must be 1st come 1st serve? So if that was the case, if your seats were in zone 3 or it was crappy weather, you could just park yourself at one of those chairs right at the 50-yard line! Worst case, you could stand up behind occupied seats and have a great premium view of the field if you wanted.
The final think I kept reminding myself was that this cost was for a good cause as well ... the donations would go to the football program (you can request how the funds are used to a degree ... I chose football scholarships). Don't forget to discount the donation cost by your tax savings = by appx 24% (donation x .80 x.30).
About a month ago, after I thought I was "all set" I checked out the available seating and a pair of front row seats opened up in zone 2. I quickly contacted Ted and he said I could upgrade if I wanted b/c a donor backed out of their pledge. Unfortunately for both Ted and I, I dwelled on that decision for what seemed like a never ending phone call ... I was really worried that if I didn't jump on those front row seats, I would lose them, so I upgraded. Now my ability to rationalize the expense when into a very creative stage ... I thought that in the front row, I would not have to worry about people standing up, and I would be right on the "ledge" overlooking the stadium.
Every consideration I had was of course sight unseen. I spoke to Ted last week and he invited me up for a personal tour of the stadium and the club ... how could I pass that up!! To get to see what I had been imaging in my mind (the views, my seats, etc.) was really exciting and I wanted to share that with you all.
Again, I had to wait to official comment on what I saw, but here it goes ... WOW!
I arrived and met up with Ted, and associate, and a contraction manager Friday afternoon outside the stadium. So the three of them and just me. I was handed a hard-hat and goggles, and off we went to the East Side. On the walk, they spoke about how the West Side was about a month ahead of the East Side in terms of construction. They said the suites are almost done and they look amazing. We got to the East Side structure and walked up the stairs (the elevator was not working that day) and got off on the lower club floor. The chair-back seats are not in yet, but there was a single chair in the club that I could sit in and check out. The seats were dark blue, the backs were hard, but the seat cushion was very deep with a thick weather-proof cover ... it reminded me a bit of a barber's chair cushion if that makes any sense.
The club area was AMAZING ... it was really top tier county-club grade workmanship. Very high ceilings, wood paneling, surprisingly spacious, windows everywhere, and cool "maize" mood lights shining through the wood panels on the ceiling. There were speaker grills on the ceiling where the live sounds of the stadium are going to be piped in. The food stations were not in yet, and none of the tables, chairs, etc. are ready to be moved in. Ted said that it should all be done well before game day ... everything is on track.
With safety gear, I was able to inspect the outdoor sections ... still just the concrete steps where the seats will be installed. Ted was right ... even Zone 3 view were nice, MUCH better than I had been concerned about ... so true to Ted's word, the best "value" for sure. I did still chose to stick with my Zone 2 seats, more so b/c I really liked the idea of the 1st row, and the field looked "balanced" ... hard to describe this, but since you are so high up, being at about the 10-20 yard line gave you almost the same balanced field experience as the 50-yard line. So, maybe I would be better off in Zone 3, but I am taking the plunge and going ALL-IN for Zone 2 :)
We also went upstairs to the top level, which is more "exclusive" ... meaning, there are a lot fewer seat-holders in that floor than the 1st floor, so that is why the zone section transition to more expensive quicker than in the 1st floor. Ted described it as benefiting those that want even shorter lines to concessions, bathrooms, and ability to stand-up/sit behind the windows inside during bad weather. The indoor seating section is crazy ... looks like a small auditorium inside an amazing glass fishbowl ... the height of the windows and ceiling shocked me (very high). So, some might be interested in selecting 2nd floor if you really want to the least congestion and the most convenience possible.
I really felt awkwardly privileged, and won't soon forget the experience.
So in conclusion, I am so proud to be a Michigan grad/football fan, I wanted to share my experience and offer to help Ted and his team source more potential club members. I thought posting here might be the best way to generate interest and Ted is looking forward to speaking to any of you that have serious interest in joining this group. I can't speak for him, but I am sure he would be willing to take people on tours like I received and help you "rationalize" the decision in your own way. I can't help but be a bit worried that there are still seats open, but I do understand that the economy and our team performance has not helped. However, perhaps it is just that many of you might not know your options and that this opportunity still exists ...
I would be happy to answer any other questions that you might have about my experience, so please let me know. Get interested! Call Ted!! Join the Club!!!
Here is the link again to contact Ted:
Tell him Art sent ya :)