I think both are keys to increasing ticket sales and will eventually help improve our football program. Morgan Burke is someone who I highly respect as our A.D. and endorse most every move he makes for ol’ Purdue’s athletic programs. I think his tendency towards pragmatism fits Purdue well and makes sense for most of our athletic dealings, however, I do not agree with him in regard to the subject mentioned in the title.
Per our Hammer & Rail lord and savior, T-Mill, I have been asked to make a FanPost on a topic I feel strongly about: adding permanent lights to Ross-Ade. I would love to hear any negative reaction or discussions on why I’m crazy. However, if you are on the side that agrees with me (as have been most all the replies to my original thread on the GoldAndBlack.com football board), I would love it if you would preach my thoughts and agenda to the Athletic Department. If they constantly hear the suggestion, maybe they will see the light and get serious about adding them.
Bear with me and enjoy.
At the Purdue Coaches Caravan on June 15th at the Rathskeller in Indy, I asked Morgan Burke to expand on the latest and greatest as to when the rumored East Deck expansion project was going to commence and if it would include permanent lights. Given your closing comments, Morgan, (see bottom of this article) I hope you're reading this and take into consideration my strong thoughts on permanent lights.
Morgan said his views had changed recently a bit in regard to stadium improvements and said at the moment his biggest concern is filling Ross-Ade and reducing empty seats which he believes are an eyesore (agreed). He explained that the first step in that direction would be to eliminate the South Endzone seats and fill it in with something aesthetically pleasing. I envision what exists in the end zones of NW and Mizz. Paraphrasing, he said, ~"I know I just mentioned a couple weeks ago that an addition on the east deck as being an important step to expanding the season ticket base, but first and foremost we need to sell tix and fill Ross-Ade, even if capacity is only going to be 55,000."
To me he seemed to imply there were major concerns if Purdue spent more money to build more seats when they are already way behind on season ticket sales, even over last season (and they are according to the gals in the ticket office I've asked recently. Not sure why, given the way we finished on a high note last year. Good ol fickle fanbase and bad economy I guess.)
I think if you build more sideline to sideline seats, you'll sell more season ticket packages and people will be more likely to renew. When someone buys season tix and ends up near or in the endzone and they don't improve much within 2 or 3 years, they know that given current demand they can drop tickets for a couple years, and then buy later, and they'll be in damn near the same area, so what's their urgency and incentive to buy season tickets as opposed to just scalp day-of? I don't think just eliminating the cheaper-to-buy South Endzone is going to automatically make people buy what is now mostly empty North Endzone seats, even if you lowered the current North Endzone seats to the el cheapo South Endzone prices. But it is an interesting thought/strategy.
Morgan seemed to get a bit more fiery on this subject--as if it gives him a very bad taste in his mouth. I take it that it's either a subject he doesn’t like to address because he's tired of doing so, or because he thinks it's an expenditure with little potential return. As you'll read, I highly disagree if it's indeed the latter.
On the lights topic he opened with, paraphrasing, ~"for night games, TV pays for the lights when we have one so there's no need for us to put up lights. We have NOTHING to do with scheduling or the times are kickoffs are assigned; TV does." He then went on to mention that we have a road night game at NW on 10/9 and that the Ath Dept is working with the Big Ten office to have an annual night game in September.
I'm confused by this latter thought. Does he mean a guaranteed 3:30 game in Sept annually? I don't necessarily consider a 3:30 kickoff to be a night game, but I like the idea and hope to see it happen. Lights shouldn't be necessary for a mid-Sept kickoff unless a game goes into 5 OT's, though we were getting close for Oregon a couple years back. For kickoff at 7 PM ET (the preferred slot for night games on BTN so far) or later it would require lights.
I wish he would publish an estimate on how much permanent lights would cost to build and maintain. Or at least explain his apparent distaste for it. And I need to hear something more than assumed financial prudence. Maybe I'd back off of my strong viewpoints on the idea if the cost was outlandish or I could understand why Purdue doesn’t do it. The thing is, I doubt it's too overly expensive. Why else has seemingly every other school added lights when they renovated (even night-game hating Michigan just did)? This even includes the FB revenue uber-bottomfeeders like NW, Minn, and IU.
Morgan, (ok, I doubt you're actually reading this, but whoever monitors this board in the Ath Dept) you still reading? I'll, right now, donate another Grand if it is directly applied to a perm lights project that will be completed within 5 years.
I've posted many of these points before, but to reiterate my extensive thoughts for why lights are a good idea.......
--Night games WILL SELL MORE tickets. Oh, and it looks cool.
Why is CFB so damn popular? Because it's an event; more than a game, it's an event. Adding anywhere from 3.5 to 7 hours more time to said event allows fans who live a state or more away additional time to travel to the game, who subsequently will still be able to meet friends, relax and tailgate. Night games are louder (I think we know the major reason why) and the atmosphere is simply more fun and looks super on TV. Over half the damn games in the SEC are pre-scheduled at night. Yes this is partially to avoid the sticky Sept and Oct heat down there, but it makes an SEC game even more of a crazy event that entire families can come to, even those who aren't fortunate to have season tickets in sold out stadiums; they still come to tailgate.
--More people will fly in (or drive from afar) for games IF they can plan ahead a couple of months for a late game.
I am THAT lucky guy that organizes our big group tailgates and sends out a weekly email to 100+ people prior to each home game, wonders who reads the whole thing, and then waits to see who shows up Saturday morning. When I try to get people who live more than 4 or so hours away, and especially multiple groups of them, it's tough to get them to come because they can't plan ahead. Don’t forget that those fans driving from Illinois lose an hour to come to Purdue making it even tougher. When Oct/Nov kickoff times aren't announced until 6 to 12 days ahead of time, I'm not going to be able to suddenly persuade all 20-some of my good friends who are out-of-state engineering grads to fly in or road trip it. Also, once someone is that late in the monthly planning game, they have all already made local weekend plans anyway. A perfect example is this year and the Wisc game. It’s probably the biggest home game on the sched and should be against a ranked team. But I can't get any far-out-of-towners to bite on "let's all plan to come in that weekend" because kickoff could end up at Noon.
--They aren't all super-late games.
Lights allow for more 3:30 games. Purdue had the fewest non-Noon home games in the Big Ten during the last 3 years. Part of the reason we rarely get anything but noon start-times is because of the aforementioned cost to the networks to bring in lights. TV likes to save money too. IU had 3 true night games last year and 2 or 3 the year before. I'm pretty damn sure it's not because TV execs wanted to showcase the mighty Hoosiers. Because IU has permanent lights, it was/is a convenient option for BTN to make it their lone weekly Saturday night game. The only season since 2000 that Purdue has had 2+ later home kickoffs was in fact in 2000 when we were ranked the whole year and had Drew Brees as a nat'l Heisman story to showcase to the masses. Keep in mind TV rules and opportunities to be on TV are different today. With the current reverse-mirror Big Ten TV deal with ABC/ESPN, at least one Big Ten game is shown as a fully national game every week; even weeks when the possible matchups are terrible. I remember 2 years ago when a mediocre dual-under-.500 Illinois-Minn game was at 3:30, simply because lights were avail and it's the way the weekly TV picks worked out.
--Purdue's admin doesn't like rowdy fans.
While it's never been said in an official statement, you can tell Purdue doesn't like late games because there ends up being more PI arrests, parking people have to work longer, and ushers have to deal with rowdier fans. Purdue needs to get over this. If people happen to be imbibe more – you’ll need to sit down for a shocking revelation: they have more fun and memories of good times, and will be more likely to return because of those two factors. Also, I think the football team and coaching staff would prefer a louder crowd who makes it to their seats, and does so in an early and on-time fashion. If you get to Purdue at 9 am, you barely have time to park, set up your tailgate, eat, have more than two beers, pack up, and then you're running to the stadium from Slater or the IM fields just to make it kickoff. Every late kickoff we have had, I've had enough fun in the tailgate fields that I am basically ready for a break and make it to my seats at least 30 mins before opening kickoff. For the ND and OSU night games it was almost an hour prior. Man, what a shame it'd be to have a loud stadium and intimidating atmosphere for our opponents. Oh wait.
--It's good for recruiting.
When the NCAA changed their recruit-hosting guidelines a couple years ago, Purdue took a hit because we don't have a major airport near campus and thus it's tougher to get far away recruits in for official visits. After a recruit plays Friday night in Fla or Texas, there often isn't enough time Saturday morning to fly in and get settled by Noon, especially for those coming from non-metropolitan areas. I already mentioned above that the stadium will be fuller, the crowd will be louder, and the place simply looks cooler if it's actually at night. You think any of that could help in recruiting especially with Hope selling it? All those Florida and Georgia guys the coaching staff has been going after lately grow up watching all those crazy night SEC games, you know.
So anyway, I know some old-timers don't like the idea of later games, a major complaint being it's tough to make it back to Chicago before bedtime on Saturday night, but I think most Purdue fans would like it and believe it could help things financially and competitively.
And as far as selling tickets and the TV schedule, the main change is when tickets are on sale in March/April, Purdue could work with the Big Ten and it’s TV partners (like self-ran BTN) and already name one true night home game every year. If it's a lesser opponent like Minnesota or Ball State (see IU vs Ball State in '08 and IU vs Illinois in '09) , so be it, we could take a BTN slot like we are for our night game at NW is this coming season. In this same March/April timeframe, Purdue can also set a likely home 3:30 kickoff or two against the helmet schools, (like Mich or Wisc this coming season or ND, PSU, Neb, or OSU in others), and ABC can assume they will show it in the prime slot. And if they do not for some reason (maybe both Mich and Purdue stinks like in 2008) they can throw it to ESPN2 as happens with one or two 3:30 match ups a year that didn’t pan out quite as expected.
I understand the need to be frugal and smart with your money --I'm an Industrial Engineering Grad after all. But until I'm proven strongly otherwise, I'm going to preach my soapbox that more late/night games = additional tickets sold = better fan experience = better recruits coming in, in no chronological order; rather, all will benefit from more late afternoon/night stuff which SHOULD equal more wins in the long-run. (I say should, because the last part is the least likely to be a direct result, especially if we're thrown into the battering ram East division of annual games with PSU, OSU, and Mich :-)
As part of closing his answer to my 2-part question, in regard to his altered stance on the East Deck addition, Burke said, ~"I know this is a bit different from what I just said recently, but I figure you guys on the blogs can go have fun with it anyway." So here I am having fun. And I hope others chime in too. If I'm an idiot, please let me know.