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January 29, 2013

Burke asks fans to 'dive in' with legacy fund





Purdue didn't increase its football season ticket prices for 2013, but a "legacy fund" will increase season tickets in two seating areas.

Athletic director Morgan Burke revealed a plan on Tuesday that announced a $250 fee per ticket, per year for seats in the "prime" locations, between the 35-yard lines, and a $100 fee for "sideline" seats.

Factoring in potential tax benefits as a charitable donation deduction and a decrease in the amount of the season ticket for the "prime" seats, that's a $106 increase per ticket, per year. For the "sideline" season tickets, which didn't decrease, it's a $76 increase.

Season tickets for both "prime" and "sideline" seats are $273, before the fees.

Those two sections account for 22 percent of the stadium's capacity and 47 percent of the season-ticket base from 2012.

The fees were prompted by an increased commitment to the football program that has included a $16 million investment over the past five seasons, Burke said. Recently, that included an additional $2-plus million to football coaches salaries.

"What we're asking people to do is give us some level of assistance," Burke said at a small gathering of media on Tuesday. "We've found a way to probably eat two-thirds of the issue and we're looking for the masses to help us with the remaining third.

"We want people to understand that we're not asking them to do something without any prior investment on our part nor are we asking people to invest without us finding ways to see what we can do to reallocate resources."

Season tickets go on sale Feb. 7, and Purdue is hoping to boost its total from 2012. Then, it sold about 27,000, continuing a decline over the past several years.

Burke has since fired Danny Hope and hired Darrell Hazell, and Burke said he thinks that's led to some excitement about the program.

But Burke says he couldn't wait to see if that would immediately lead to an increase in tickets before making a move to increase revenue in that area.

"I've got to pay the bills," Burke said when asked why he made the decision to add the legacy fund now. "I know people say 'wait,' but I can't. … If you break this down on a per-person basis, I'm not saying it's insignificant, but I'm not going out and asking for thousands of dollars like you've seen other people do. But I want to give us something that will pull this entire Purdue family together. It's always easy to do it after the fact. I was asked to do it before the fact, so I've listened. I think we've heard the message.

"It's time to take that step and be aggressive and take the risk or continue to try to be incremental. I've certainly gotten a lot of feedback over the last few years in terms of our frugality. I heard the message. I learned. We need a little bit of help to get that accomplished. I think we really have been able to find the way to close the gap considerably, but you'll see as we roll out the remainder of the staff, we've lived up to our commitment we said in our press conference. We've invested in people of stature and experience, and we're taking a risk. We're not going to do it conservatively. We're diving in. We're not putting our toe in. We're diving in. I've got to ask people to dive in with me. If we all do this together, then I think the benefits will come."

According to information provided by Purdue, Purdue's per-seat donation is significantly less than other Big Ten programs who also charge fees. Comparatively, Wisconsin's fee is $400 for "prime" seats, Minnesota's is $500, Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa and Penn State's are $600, Ohio State's is a minimum of $1,500 for two tickets and Nebraska's is $3,500 per ticket.

Purdue invested about $6 million in 2012 to the football program, not including scholarships. It used data that was supplied by the Big Ten to the federal government to compare that commitment with other league programs. They were things that "only a head coach could influence and control in his budget," Burke said.

In 2012, in that area, Purdue was near the bottom of the Big Ten, according to its research.

"The fans with the legacy fee attachment allows us to take the next jump into potentially the top quarter of the Big Ten in that area," AD of marketing and ticketing Chris Peludat said. "That's roughly about a $1.3 million net because we have rolled back some pricing in those areas. That's based on the current capacity in the donation areas that we've done. So if we retain the same numbers there, that's the improvement we can make. Then … if we sold those areas out on a season-ticket basis, it could potentially bring in another $1.3 million to allow us further invest in the football program."

Fans who purchase or renew seats in the legacy fund areas will get double John Purdue Club points on the per-seat donation amount, a price freeze on tickets and per seat donations through the 2015 season, an invitation to a designated spring practice and a "bring a friend" voucher for each seat purchased for the first home game on Sept. 7 against Indiana State.

The Boilermakers play home games against Indiana State, Notre Dame, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State, Iowa and Illinois in 2013.

It's likely Purdue will use a tiered pricing structure for single-game tickets for the Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State games, though those prices haven't been set.

"We know that the product in Ross-Ade has to be improved or we jeopardize our ability to be self-supporting," Burke said.

"I'd rather try to take the risk and create the future than have the future do it to us. We're either going to play at this level or we're not."




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