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Should Cal Follow UCLA's Lead On Student Seating In Haas Pavilion?

[Update:  In the time since we discussed this matter, UCLA actually backtracked on their plan.  I presume they did that solely to screw with our editorial calendar.  That's so UCLA!]

TwistNHook:  UCLA is making an upgrade to Pauley Pavilion, where their powerhouse basketball team plays (aka The House That Reeves Nelson Built).  Recently, the administration announced a change in the seating:

A unified, cohesive student section designed to create an increased home court advantage for the UCLA men's and women's basketball team will be implemented going forward. The Den will start immediately behind the West basket (the side located adjacent to the visiting team bench), span the entire width of the court and will stretch all the way to the top of the arena. This configuration is similar to arenas at many Pac-12 schools, including Arizona, Oregon and USC, as well as many around the nation. Approximately 1900 seats will incorporate the new Den for Men's Basketball, an increase of approximately 200 seats from years past. This general admission section will be built around the energy and creativity of the UCLA Band, Spirit Squad, Den leadership, Rally Committee and frankly, all students who attend. The visiting teams will shoot free throws into this basket in the second half. Good luck.

To recap, they are moving the students from the sideline to behind the basket.  Here is the seating map:



Note that the student section appears to start near (but not on) courtside and then goes all the way up to the top of the arena.  I am going to presume that UCLA did this to clear up key sideline seats for high rollers.  

Cal athletics is currently in the midst of a unprecedented financial crisis that threatens our 100+ year old baseball team.  We're desperately searching for a way to monetize Cal sports in any way possible.  My question to you, CGB team, is this something we should consider?  We currently have the straw hat band and Rally Comm behind the basket with the students on the sideline.  Should we move any of those groups around to open up new sets of high priced seats?  Or is that messing with the tradition of college sports and Cal men's basketball?  

Prepare your outrage now...AND GO!

Avinash:  I'm not sure how many more dollars we would make with this move short-term. A few hundred? A few thousand? Just for a few more chairbacks and donors getting plum seating?

Plus let's look at the long-term ramifications. Cal basketball fans love The Bench, because it's the only part of Haas that is constantly rocking anymore. Take that away, and you're pretty much silencing Haas, plus you risk taking the students completely out of it (seriously, the difference between the Bench and baseline students in terms of noise registration is sizeable).

Some things are more important than money. Cal basketball is athletically self-sufficient and will continue to be so for the near future. Cal baseball needs to learn to take care of itself.


TwistNHook: The problem is that when you are running an athletics department, you are not really running it in the best capitalist  manner.  The vast majority of your products lose money and a lot of it.  This is especially true now.  So, it kind of puts athletics departments in the position of having to squeeze the products that do make money (football; men's basketball; potentially, rugby) to help those that do not.  I don't think that we can just split baseball from men's basketball quite so easily.


Avinash:  In addition, you risk alienating future potential donors among students (soon to be future young alumni), who will be less inclined to donate if they're placed in a general student section rather than fighting for the plum seats among the sidelines. One of the reasons the athletics department is in the mess they're in is their inability and foresight to think long-term. They'll need to really think deeply about making changes like this one.

But isn't that what the Chancellor is saying right now? Cal baseball has to fund itself separately from the contributions of basketball and football. Any changes based on men's student seating would only cover a few drops in the water.

Again, you are underestimating the potential blowback of such a decision. I would not be pleased, nor would many Cal basketball fans.


Berkelium97:  Avi makes a good point.  Monty took this team to 2 consecutive NCAA tournaments and brought Cal its first Pac-10 title in 50 years.  Student interest in basketball is not as strong as it is in football, but there is great opportunity for it to grow while we enjoy a period of tremendous success.  If they moved the bench to the baseline, that would be a further blow to student interest in attending games.  If they're not attending as students, it's less likely they'll come back and attend as alumni, less likely they'll donate to the program, and so on.

solarise:  Where do the young alumni sit in  Haas Pavilion?


TwistNHook:  I'm not entirely certain there is a "Young Alum" section, because I have never purchased season tickets.  I know Ragnarok has season tickets and his seats are well up towards the top of Haas.  When they held that Young Alum event with Tosh Lupoi before the Az game, every person who bought a ticket through that was placed well up towards the top of Haas.  So, not great seats. 


solarise:  So perhaps the answer is to create young alumni seating around the bench stretching from the sidelines to behind the basket to create a win-win situation of more fan support & potential revenue.


TwistNHook:  This is what I'm talking about.  I don't want to do anything to ruin the Haas atmosphere.  On the same wavelength, can anybody brainstorm an idea about how we can create a great Haas atmosphere, while at the same time maximizing athletics revenue?  


Berkelium97:  Want to make revenue while getting people to be more lively?  Sell alcohol.


LeonPowe:  Don't think we can - isn't the rule that unless a venue also doubles as a pro stadium, no alcohol sales?

Anyways, we (meaning I was part of a group) that fought an idea to get the students off the sidelines in the mid-90s (John Kasser was exploring the idea) - I've even a little annoyed that there's a row between the students and the court already in Haas. 

The best seats in football and basketball should go to the students at a subsidized price. Always.


Berkelium97:  Ah, that's how the rule works.  I've always wondered about that.


TwistNHook:  LeonPowe, can you tell us  more about this plan in the mid 90s to move the students?  To where?

As a reminder, the band used to be smack dab in the middle of the Bench.  In the early, early 200s, they were moved to their current location. 


LeonPowe:  Twist - same thing that sort of comes up at every school when revenue is needed. This was pre-Haas, and the Athletic Department was searching for ways to increase revenue (seatbacks in Harmon, more sponsorship opportunities) and one of the ideas that Kasser floated was moving the band + students to behind one of the baskets. As you said, the band used to have a good quarter of the front section space right on the floor right next to the student section. I don't think this proposal ever reached anywhere further than internally at the athletic department - but I was part of a student committee that liaised with the AD. (Some battles we lost - see the "release basketball season tickets at 6am at a secret location on campus idea) 

Ragnarok: As a band member at the time, I remember being none too happy about losing my free halfcourt seating (or standing, as it were), but as I recall, the move was made in order to enhance the Bench, as the band's presence split it right in two.  Now, the Bench gets an entire unified sideline in which to heckle and raise hell as best they can, and as long as they continue to do just that, the sideline is where they need to be.

The student section in any college arena has to be considered an investment in the future -- get the kids in now with cheap tickets, give 'em a great time, and you'll have 'em back and shelling out big bucks for decades down the line.
As to the main point of this roundtable, if you want to create a great atmosphere at Haas, fill the building.  And not with visiting Arizona or UCLA fans.  If you have to lower prices temporarily, get Cal fans in the building.  We've already got a very good basketball team, and I expect that continue.  All we're lacking is a full house.  And if you are looking to maximize revenue, the answer is the same -- fill the building, create a great atmosphere and some ticket scarcity, and you'll have no trouble increasing revenues.

TwistNHook:   Most people seem to be agreeing.  Anybody disagree and think the students should be moved? 

[Time passes]

I'll take that as a no!