For years, the 120 seats in Section U at Allen Fieldhouse provided KU students with some of the best seats in the building. From the first rows of the section, located just off the floor and adjacent to the Kansas bench, you could see spit fly and Bill Self’s face turn tomato red.
Now those seats will belong to deep-pocketed donors.
Kansas associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said Thursday that the KU athletic department decided to reallocate those seats for boosters, cutting out some of the KU students’ best real estate.
The decision, according to Marchiony, stems from a student government vote this year that aimed to remove a student fee that channeled close to $1.1 million to the athletic department.
The KU Student Senate voted to remove the fee — which cost students $50 per year — but KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little later issued a compromise that reduced the student subsidy but still cut athletics’ revenue by roughly $350,000, according to Marchiony.
“When the student government proposed (to eliminate the fee),” Marchiony said, “it made it very clear that it wanted the athletic department to find other ways to raise revenue, aside from the student fee.
“That’s what we did, and the change in Section U is a direct result of that.”
Marchiony said the change would not cut into the total number of student seats, but offered no specific plan for how that would be accomplished.
“The fact is there will not be a student who wants to come to a game that will be turned away,” Marchiony said. “We will make sure that every student that wants to come to a game gets into a game.”
The Student Senate issued a statement Friday that read in part, “With a 7 percent budget increase this year — stemming primarily from ticket sales and revenue sports — it is unfortunate that Kansas Athletics was unable to compensate for the student fee cut in a way that would not eliminate some of the best student seats in Allen Fieldhouse.”
The new donor section, though, could be a boon for other Kansas fans. In the current setup, donor seats at Allen Fieldhouse are based on a lifetime of giving to the Williams Fund, the KU athletic department’s chief fundraising arm. The more points a fan accumulates by giving, the better seats he or she can have. The athletic department holds a Select-a-Seat event each summer that allows donor to choose their seats based on points.
But according to Marchiony, the seats in Section U will be reserved for donors that are in “the upper categories of giving this year.” So if a donor has never given to KU athletics, they could still position themselves for a prime seat in Section U by donating a hefty sum of money this year.
KU already handles postseason tickets and regular-season parking in the same manner, Marchiony said.
The plan is meant to provide an incentive for giving in the short-term. But Marchiony said it’s not certain that KU athletics will recoup all of the revenue lost by the reduction in student fees.
KU athletics, according to Marchiony, also plans to raise the price for student ticket packages at some point. But KU students will have the opportunity to purchase student tickets at the previous rate until the beginning of the school year.