Osceola Experience: Evaluating FSU’s new ticket options for flexibility, affordability

Florida State announced a variety of ticket packages Wednesday designed to provide Seminole fans with nearly unlimited flexibility in terms of schedule and price. The innovative plans come less than a month after FSU released future home schedules with Georgia and Notre Dame.

These two announcements indicate the program is responding to its fans.

The Osceola Experience, a regular feature in this publication, will address our readers’ interest in flexible ticket packages, affordable lodging and memorable experiences when attending games. Today we will address tickets and, later this week, we will report on the price of lodging in the area, providing a list of every available in-town hotel, including many for $250 or less. We’ll also point to properties just down the road for $100 to $150 a night.

We know you’d prefer to stay in the middle of the action, so we’ll start there. But over the coming weeks we’ll deliver ways you can rent a hotel room that is “just down the road” for $100 to $150 a night. We’ll also run a “put your creative hat” article on alternative lodging options as there are a plethora of creative, low-cost alternates that may tickle your adventurous side including AirBnB, motorhomes, beach condos, cabins, second homes and more. Stay tuned for lodging options but today the subject is how to get tickets, flexible and  affordable ducats.

Necessity is the mother of invention

With season-ticket sales falling at both the college and pro level, executives finally started listening and, surprise, responding to the need for flexible and affordable pricing.

FSU fans have been telling their ticket representatives what they need for years, so it is good to see athletic director David Coburn responding to what fans want so early in his tenure.  

“You got to give people what they want,” Coburn said.

What Coburn may lack in athletics experience he makes up for in common sense and, as former FSU assistant coach Jim Gladden likes to say, “Common sense is not so common.”

You will find a well-written article about FSU’s new ticket packages by the Tallahassee Democrat’s Jim Henry , who will be a contributing writer to the Osceola. The story explains the innovative Tribe Flex Pass and the 850 Plan, which is a family-friendly value play.

What we’ll do in this Osceola Experience installment is add a perspective on the options and what they do for you in terms of value, convenience and flexibility.

The Tribe Flex Passes

The flex packs come in two flavors: six games for $340 ($56.66 per game) or 12 games for $570 ($47.50 per game). Both include a $70 Booster membership.

Seminoles.com describes the passes: “A mobile-only flex pass that gives you the option to choose the games you want! Passes can be redeemed for the games/quantities you want (max of four for Miami and 10 for all others). Seat varies game to game and delivered by mobile app 48 hours before the game.

Who is the target audience?: “A version was introduced last year for recent graduates who are comfortable using mobile apps,” said Mark Cameron senior director of Ticket Sales, Service and Retention at FSU. “But we knew it would appeal to a much broader market looking for choices. We were thinking more about the person from out of town who doesn’t know their schedule and isn’t able to commit six months ahead. But the flex plans can apply to in-town people who need flexibility too.”

Where are the seats?: “The primary areas will be sections 27-29 and 37-39,” Cameron said. Sections 27-29 and 37-39 are in the corners of the west side grandstand, which receives shade first (which is good). Cameron adds, “There could be seats elsewhere included in the random drawing depending on what other sections are not selected by season ticket holders.”

How does it work?: You can buy now and could wait to redeem until 48 hours prior to the game. “We start to redeem late summer and it goes right up until the game,” Cameron said. “Seats will be randomly assigned.”

What’s cool?: If you and I each buy the flex pass and want to sit together at a game, we can simply go into the app and link to the games we want to sit together. Furthermore, suppose we want to sit together for all the games except Miami (you don’t like my Cane friends), so we simply link the games we want to sit together and not the UM game.

“There are steps in the app on how to do the ‘sit with friends’ option and the screen shots are pretty simple,” Cameron reports.

Click to see how the app works: http://desktop.expapp.com/fsufb/pass_select

“You simply put their email address in and it will send you a text confirming, ‘Jerry, you are now linked with Mark for the following games.’ ”

These packages come with Seminole Booster Iron Arrow level ($70) membership benefits, which FSU will credit toward any membership level you choose for parking or other benefits.

Flex pack or season ticket: Pepsi or Coke? If you aren’t comfortable with mobile apps, and you don’t have a significant other who is, the flex pack isn’t for you. But if you can learn, FSU’s ticket reps will help you. If you are the kind of person who has to have a physical ticket in your hand, or needs to sit in the same seat every game, or wants to be able to choose from the very-best seats or to sit around the same people every week, then you want to be a season ticket holder.

Are flex pack seats guaranteed?: Yes.

“Let’s take Miami, for example,” Cameron said. “We set a limit of four seats per person so if we have 550 transactions, we know we have to be able to allocate as many as 2,200 seats for these customers. The fans won’t get shut out of a game.”

What’s the future for flex packs?: Should interest in buying season tickets spikes, FSU could choose to limit the number of flex packages it offers but still keep the flex option available. “We believe this is the future so we don’t ever want to get away from providing this option,” Cameron said.

Can you sell the Tribe Flex Passes?: The Tribe Flex Pass cannot be resold online (Stubhub), although the mobile passes can be transferred to friends and family after being redeemed.

My take: To get a butt on every seat you need a package for every need. Some folks want the season ticket, which may be the best value if seat location and benefits is of utmost importance to you, and you plan to come to every game. Others want or need more flexibility in their lives and prefer to buy their seats from FSU rather than on the secondary market.

I believe the flex packages will gain popularity, especially in stadiums like Doak Campbell where 70 percent of its ticket holders live more than 150 miles away.

The 850 package

Who is the audience?: This cleverly named offering is designed for local families, who live in the 850, to buy four full season tickets with a Booster membership ($70) for one low price of $850.

Don’t take the name too literally. I don’t think they check birth certificates or marriage licenses.

If your family includes more or less than four, not to worry. They will pro-rate the price for any family unit. If you don’t live within the 850, you are still in luck.

“We offer something similar,” Cameron said. “It is a $199 season ticket, which requires a $25 per seat donation requirement. So four seats at $224 comes to $896.” Slightly more but close enough.

Where are the seats?: Located at the top of sections 15 and 16 (East Side) above the visiting team’s fans with some in sections 27-28 (West Side).

How does it work?: Think traditional season ticket only without the guaranteed right to renew in the same location. You buy the package. FSU sends you tickets (either by mail or email) and you and your family unit enjoy the same seats every game of the 2019 season.

Is the 850 Package guaranteed in 2020?: “The pass will be renewable but maybe not the location,” Cameron said. Why? Because the location is based upon how many seats are guaranteed to the opponent. Miami has not requested their full allotment in 2019 so FSU will have those seats this year but if Florida opts to take their full allotment those 850 package buyers may can be relocated somewhere other than sections 15 or 16.

My take: When less than 30 percent of your ticket buyers are local, and the median household income is below the state’s average, you need a budget package. FSU enjoyed success with family packages in the past. How many of you remember the McDonald’s end zone Family Packs back in the 1980s? You got a ticket to see the game and a Happy Meal afterwards. I still hear people talking about those memories.

FSU hasn’t found a consistent local market winner since. At an average season ticket price of $212.50, or just a little over $35 per person per game, this package does offer a family an affordable way to create family memories on game days.

Pick a Seat 3 Packs

This is your traditional “pick a seat,” where you choose, as opposed to a “fixed” plan, where FSU chooses, the games for you. I like to choose, so this is an improvement.

Where the seats are located: The Pick a Seat 3 Packs will be located in sections 8 to 12, sections 15-16 and sections 27-28 with different price points based on location.

Who is the audience?: Three packs are for people who like the traditional hard ticket and want to sit in the same seat but can’t commit to a six-game season ticket.

What’s good about the 3-game plan: You get to pick the games you can attend. People who live far from town find these packages appealing and should be even better now that the customer gets to select games.

There are six price levels ranging from $105 per seat to $190 per seat, depending on location and whether you select Miami or not. I chose Louisville, NC State and Syracuse for $135 per seat in section 12, row 61. A 3-game pack with Miami, NC State and Syracuse in a similar section is $190.

My take: If your calendar is flexible, and you want to sit in the same seats, the 3-game pick-a-plan may be for you. If you’re not sure about your dates, the flex plan may be the deal.

Three games in the Dunlap Champions Club

Choose any three games in the Dunlap Champions Club for $699, which includes a reserved club seat, food and beverage (soft drinks) with access to a cash bar air-conditioned club level, terraces and elevators.

This is a great way to sample the club or for the person who can only commit to three weekends a year.

Give FSU and its new AD credit for being proactive

These decisions look like a layup to fans who are experts on the buying process, including secondary markets like StubHub. But these are not easy decisions for athletic directors to make while trying to balance a $100 million athletic budget. There are unknown, unintended consequences that scare them. Like, how will it affect my most loyal customers?

It takes research and trusted advice from experienced people, who have a frame of reference, to give the athletic director the courage to pull the trigger on a decision that could affect as much as 40 percent to the department’s revenue.

FSU has been studying this for a while and took the deep dive with schools like Texas, LSU, Va. Tech and Georgia Tech, among others, to get answers to those pertinent questions. They retained an experienced vendor, appropriately named “Experience,” who handles the random drawings, redemptions and mobile delivery. Experience has a track record and best-practices FSU could employ.

Give David Coburn credit for pulling a stiff trigger.

After listening and talking with thousands of FSU fans over the years, Cameron is pleased with the diversity of the offering.

“We have been meeting for months to give everyone every option we can think of,” Cameron said. “I feel like we are throwing the kitchen sink at everyone.”

As with anything new, Cameron expects phone calls.

“The options are not necessarily self-explanatory,” he said. “So we encourage people to call in and talk to our representatives so we can help them. Our goal is to make it easy, and affordable, for everyone to get out to the stadium.”

Next up for Osceola Experience: Lodging is a major factor in the ticket purchase decision. Creative ways to do Doak without breaking the bank.

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