Inside the Numbers: Football Ticket Revenue
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
TSL Extra, Issue #20
We talk a lot about stadium expansion, increased ticket sales, and the growth in season ticket sales for Virginia Tech football, but no one has ever asked the question, "How does that translate into real dollars in Virginia Tech's pocket?"
Since 1993, when the Hokies started their bowl run, the average cost of a Tech football ticket has increased from roughly $20 to $31 (in 2002). Attendance is up dramatically, with sellouts becoming the norm instead of the WVU-UVa exception, and stadium capacity has ebbed and flowed.
With South end zone expansion nearly complete, Lane Stadium's capacity will increase to 63,459 seats, up from a previous high of 56,272 in 2000. As the Hokies get ready to open their expanded stadium and make more money from ticket sales than ever before, it bears taking a look back at ticket revenue during the Beamer Bowl era (1993-2001).
Using ticket costs, season ticket sales figures, and game attendance figures (plus a few wild guesses), we'll take a stab at trying to figure out what VT's football ticket revenue has been since 1993.
As usual, if you're an "executive summary" type of person, you can skip over the next few sections and go straight to the "Revenue Calculations" section. If you like to know how the results were reached, in mind-numbing detail, then slog your way through the next few sections for explanations.
To figure out ticket revenue, all we need is attendance figures for each game from 1993-2001, and the cost of a ticket for each game. You then multiply the attendance figure by the ticket cost to get revenue.
Of course, comp tickets (which are free tickets given out to friends of the university, recruits, players' families, high school coaches, etc.) reduce ticket revenue. So we'll need to estimate how many comp tickets are given out for each game, and subtract that out of the revenue total.
And what about student tickets? Students don't pay for tickets per se, but they do pay an athletics fee, and that athletic fee money goes to the athletic department, to help compensate for student tickets and other items and expenses.
But wait, sometimes students pay for tickets, because a couple of years ago, VT introduced student season tickets, so students could pay a nominal fee and get reserved seats. And students buy guest tickets for friends and family.
And in some years, season tickets were discounted over single-game tickets, and in other years, they weren't.
So calculating ticket revenue sounds easy at first, but quickly gets muddied up. We'll have to make some assumptions and shortcuts so we don't get bogged down in the details.
Assumptions, Caveats, and Lazy Shortcuts
Given all the mitigating factors, we'll make the following assumptions, in order to simplify our calculations:
Here are single-game and season ticket prices for Hokie home games from 1993-2001:
The number of season tickets sold enters into the calculations, and plus, it's fun to see the numbers. Here they are:
Of course, when calculating revenue, attendance for each game must be factored in, because ticket prices vary for different games. The detailed attendance data for each game is contained in the web page and spreadsheet linked at the end of this article, but we thought you might like to look at total attendance and average attendance for each season:
Notable attendance items:
Now, let's dig into some revenue figures. Calculating revenue is simple, thanks to our "Assumptions, Caveats, and Lazy Shortcuts" above. You simply subtract 4,000 assumed comp. tickets from the game attendance and multiply that figure by the single-game ticket price. If it's a season in which season ticket holders received a discount, you have to subtract out the season ticket holders discount.
The formula is:
Game Revenue = [(Attendance - 4,000 comp. tickets) X (Ticket price)] - [(Season Tickets sold) X (Season ticket discount)]
So, for example, 47,681 fans attended the 1997 game against Boston College, paying $22 per ticket. That year, 16,675 season tickets were sold at a discount of $1 per game per ticket.
1997 BC Game Revenue = [(47,681-4,000) X ($22)] - (16,675 X $1)
Season Highs and Lows
Before we do total attendance and average per-game revenue, let's show the high and low revenue games for each season in the Beamer Bowl era.
And now, the numbers you've all been waiting for, the total season revenue and per-game revenue.
Note that in this table, the Arkansas State preseason game is not included, because VT doesn't receive ticket revenue for that game. Ticket revenue is collected and forwarded to the game sponsor, who then distributes money to the two participating schools from ticket and TV revenue.
The impact of expanding the stadium to over 63,000 seats is shown clearly on that last line. With the extra seats and increased ticket prices, per-game revenue jumps by over $450,000, or 32.5 percent. Total revenue, thanks to an unusual seven home games (which the Hokies will also have in 2003), jumps by nearly $4.6 million, or 54.6 percent.
That extra dough will come in handy for funding other sports, not just football. Remember, Bonnie Henrickson recently talked Jim Weaver into increasing women's hoops funding by $78,000 per year, a mere 1.7 percent of that $4.6 million. (But please note that some of that extra ticket revenue will go towards servicing the debt incurred in building the South end zone expansion, so it's not as if VT will have that entire $4.6 million to throw around).
And compare 2002 to 1993, the beginning of the Beamer bowl era. Ticket revenue in 2002, thanks to more home games (7 versus 6), higher ticket prices ($31 versus $16-$20), and increased attendance (63,459 versus 39,406) will probably be at least triple what it was in 1993.
An extra $8-$9 million per year in ticket revenue will do amazing things for an athletic department and its programs. But as good as $12.9 million sounds, imagine if VT were a Big Ten or SEC school, selling out a 100,000+ seat stadium, at $35-$40 per ticket, raking in $3.5-$4.0 million per game, for 6-7 home games. That's anywhere from $21 million to $28 million per year in ticket revenue, which puts $12.9 million to shame.
This analysis doesn't take into account the "Annual seat gifts" required to purchase seats in the Zone Club ($750 per seat for 880 seats), Touchdown Terrace ($500 for 321 seats), and Goal Line Stands ($200 for 1,160 seats) sections of the South end zone. At the time this article was written, only the Touchdown Terrace seats were sold out, but If VT is able to sell out all of those seats, then that brings in an extra $1.05 million per year.
To download the data in HTML (web page) format, go here:
To download an MS Excel 97 spreadsheet containing all of the data and formulas that I have used here, go here: