FSU fans can make seat selection choices in May

The priority window for season football ticket renewals closed April 15 on an optimistic note and now attention turns to new sales as Seminole fans hurry to be a part of the seat selection process, which will begin later in May. 

The upcoming seat selection process is for new and renewed season ticket holders who are provided access to a very detailed virtual seating map, showing the current location of their seats as well as every available seat in the stadium.

“If you’re a season ticket holder, you get to go online to look and see if there are seats better than the seats you have. If there are, you can claim them,” said Paul Phipps, Chief Marketing Officer.

Season ticket holders are assigned a time to go into the seat selection process that is based on their level of giving and released as tier one, two, three and four. 

“We do this each year and we’ll get probably 1,000 to 1,500 people who relocate to get the better seating,” Phipps said.

The seat selection process runs through May so new season ticket holders who order in the coming weeks will have the opportunity to participate. Once the process is over, new ticket holders will be able to select from those seats not yet chosen during the process.

Retention rates up 

After five years of low renewal rates, Seminole fans stepped up in a bigger way this year. 

“FSU hadn’t done better than 84 or 85 percent renewal on season tickets and that’s a dying business as there’s no way you’re going to generate 20% of new business each year to grow,” said Phipps. “You’re lucky to do seven or eight percent in new business.”

With those previous rates, it was just a matter of time for the season ticket base to shrink from 42,000 in 2014 to 26,000 this past year.

Phipps said FSU drew a line in the sand this past year by placing a renewed emphasis on retention of existing customers. He expects the renewal rate to reach 90 to 91 percent.

“We haven’t done that in years (FSU hit 90 percent or greater twice in the last 15 years),” Phipps said. “We finally have it to where we have a staff of people who are very dedicated, we have a plan, and we really try to execute against that plan.”

Content, specifically football content, is an emphasis.

“It’s all about being relevant with your customers, giving them what they want,” Phipps said. “If people want football, give them football. They want to feel like they are part of the team and how this team’s being built. One of the things we did on the marketing side, with Derril Beech, who runs it, is we developed a whole content platform and are pushing out a lot of video content about the program.”

Phipps said the world has changed and so FSU’s marketing plan had to change too.

“I can tell you in 2010, it would take you five phone calls to connect with someone. Today it’s 11,” Phipps said. “When we survey our customers, 90 percent of our customers say they don’t want a phone call. They either want a text or an email, so quit trying to do something that doesn’t work. Quit annoying your people. We do more texting than anything to set up appointments.”

Phipps said people will respond to a text asking for a phone appointment where they won’t answer the phone. “In doing that we’ve really had better engagement with our customers,” he said.

What fans want

In addition to wanting a winning team that is fun to watch, which Seminole fans began to see in the back half of the 2021 season, the Florida State marketing team is focused on everything that is within their control. Here’s a list of priorities:

Gameday experience

Phipps said the game day experience, from start to finish, must always be a priority in order to increase retention.

“With Michael Alford as our Athletic Director, he’s empowered us to do the changes that we felt for a long time were needed,” Phipps said. 

“It’s the training of our gate people. It’s the training of the security people,” Phipps said. But it’s also larger, more-costly changes, like the re-design of the West sideline. “Doak Campbell is the biggest brick facade in the world but the problem is inside the concession areas and the concourses, which are in need of upgrading and updating. We’re trying, as quickly as we can, to make changes to that.”

FSU fans will see some improvements beginning to appear in 2022 but the real changes will come when FSU rebuilds the west sideline and infrastructure of Doak.

Seminole Boosters is in the process of selling premium seating, which will pay for the construction. The plan calls for eight mid-level skyboxes, each requiring a $4 million capital campaign gift as well as an $85,000 payment annually. All eight boxes have been claimed and the Boosters are now taking reservations for Loge Seating, which is a new tier of premium seating. Once they are committed, the Boosters will turn their fundraising and sales effort to club seating on the west sideline.

Florida State was also able to secure $20 million from the City of Tallahassee and Leon County to rebuild the necessary infrastructure to Doak Campbell Stadium, which has long been an economic driver in the community. 

That $20 million commitment from Blueprint 2000 is restricted to infrastructure projects only and cannot be used to build premium seating. Infrastructure was very clearly delineated in a very detailed engineering study and includes: fortifying the structure itself, meeting ADA requirements for ramps and handrails, installing new lighting, plumbing and electrical. These infrastructure projects throughout the seating section of the West sideline will enhance restrooms, concourses and kitchens necessary to enhance food and beverage and give fans a reason to return to Doak and to spend money on hotels and restaurants in the Leon County community.

The lower level of the west sideline will include the mid-level skyboxes, loge seats and chair back club seats. The aisles will be wider, meeting ADA requirements, and include handrails. In addition, the bleacher seats on the upper level of the west sideline will be widened to 18 inches (currently about 16 inches) and will include ADA handrails in each widened aisle. 

The re-design will reduce seating capacity on the west sideline by as much as 25 percent, which will enhance the fan experience with fewer people competing for entry, concessions and restrooms.

New seating experience for 2022

Florida State will announce a new seating opportunity for 2022 that is located in section 120 of the south endzone.

“This section, where the Marching Chiefs used to sit, will be outfitted with 22-inch wide, high-back seats with a drink rail,” said Mark Cameron, Senior Director of Ticket Sales and Service. “Everyone with seats in this section will also have access to the third floor Renegade Hall ballroom, which includes their food and non-alcoholic beverage for the game. The food served in this air-conditioned area will be similar to what’s served in the Dunlap Champions Club on game day.”

Those 240 seats will go on sale in mid-May and are expected to sell quickly. The seats will be priced at $1,000 each and be offered to donors in priority tiers. 

“With so few seats in this section, we do anticipate a quick sell,” Cameron said. “However, it was important for us to tier the on-sale date by membership tier in order to make sure our members had priority access to the new seating.

“Ultimately, we’re very excited to offer a new seating experience in Doak Campbell Stadium this fall and look forward to many more in the near future.”

For more information on the new section 120 seating, visit https://boosters.fsu.edu/section-120-seating

Weekend experience

Years ago, FSU realized fans wanted a Friday to Sunday experience, not just a gameday experience, and worked to achieve that, including with the development of a multiuse entertainment district adjacent to the stadium parking. The vision for College Town was to provide fans with a place to stay, dine, shop and congregate for entertainment. The FSU marketing team also began producing events in College Town, including the Friday Night Block Party. In 2020, Seminole Boosters opened an exclusive club offering trendy meals and beverages in the district – 51 on Madison – for Seminole Booster members only.

Phipps said there’s more to come in College Town, which is 100 percent leased with first floor commercial tenants and with student housing, which is located on the second to fourth floor.

“Our goal by 2024 is to close the street from Woodward to Lorraine and pave it with seating and trees and make that the best entertainment zone destination in Tallahassee,” Phipps said. “Ultimately, I’d like to build a permanent stage into the intramural fields at the intersection of Woodward and Madison. It’s going to be a pretty big deal in the next three years.”