Fayetteville (UofA) - Razorback Athletics officials launched a new multi-faceted decade-long comprehensive fundraising initiative today in Fayetteville. The first step of the Answer the Call initiative will be the Razorback Seat Value Plan, or RSVP, an updated seat equity plan to enhance annual support for student-athletes at the University of Arkansas and give the Razorback athletic program additional resources to compete amid increasing scholarship, facility and operational costs.
"The reality is over the past decade we've lost ground to our competition in the Southeastern Conference," said Jeff Long, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics. "At Arkansas, we will always do more with less funding than some of our competitors, but we must close the gap between our budget and those at the top of the SEC. It's now our time to do some serious work to remain competitive in the SEC in regards to student-athlete recruiting and winning conference and national championships."
Arkansas currently ranks ninth in the SEC in annual fund totals, seventh in the SEC in total number of donors and ninth in overall athletic budgets in the SEC. Since 2006, seat restructuring has been implemented at every SEC school except Arkansas and one other institution and more than 30 programs nationwide. In addition, Arkansas has not had an update to its premium seating structure since the renovation of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
For premium seats on the 50-yard line, Arkansas is currently at the bottom of the SEC at $150 per seat. Alabama, in contrast, charges $1,300 per seat for the same sections. Under the new system, Arkansas will increase the mid-field premium to $300 per seat, a slight costs basis increase at approximately $30 per game per seat and much less than most of Arkansas' competitors.
"Under this updated system, seat locations at our football stadiums will be more aligned with Razorback Foundation donor classifications," said Chris Wyrick, the new executive director of RSVP. "This system will reward the loyalty of our supporters and add a new element of equity to our seating structure. Season ticket holders will have the opportunity to keep their current seats as long as their 2011 Razorback Foundation donation meets or exceeds the amount needed to sit in their respective sections."
RSVP is unique to the Razorback program with a focus on loyalty, the tie that binds, equal opportunities and customer service:
Loyalty. All season ticket holders have the right to keep all their current seats and will have the first opportunity to secure the seats and locations they have had previously.
The Tie That Binds. The Razorbacks are the common thread that unites our entire state. This plan is an opportunity for Hog fans to come together and achieve one common goal. This plan is an opportunity to help secure the future of the Razorbacks program.
Equal Opportunities. RSVP is an equitable program that gives all fans equal opportunity to purchase premium seats and enables each donor to find a price point with which they can be comfortable.
Customer Service. In order to address questions from Razorback donors, the Razorback Foundation has assembled a team that will walk ticket holders through the process and answer any questions they may have regarding their orders. By calling 1-800-982-HOGS and then selecting the option for RSVP, Razorback fans will get personal assistance with any questions they have. AnswerTheHogCall.com has been launched today and will continue to provide ongoing details about the plan.
"Regardless of whether you sit on the east or west sides of our stadiums," said Wyrick, "your seats will have the same premium value. We have also added a few sections that weren't classified as premium sections in the past. Even with additions, 15% of seats at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and War Memorial Stadium are not classified as premium locations, and do not have a seat value over the allotted ticket price."
Currently there are 14,116 football season ticket holder accounts. Of those accounts, 4,509 will require no additional seat premiums. A total of 9,288 of those accounts will require additional seat premiums for the 2011 football season. Of those that require additional premiums, 4,471 or roughly 48% will have to pay $360 or more. Of the remaining 52%, 4,871 will only have to pay $350 or less.
"It is our responsibility to work alongside the athletic department to provide what the leadership feels is needed to give us the best chance not to just compete, but to win," said Razorback Foundation executive director Harold Horton. "The plan that has been developed is equitable ticket assignment system based upon a donor's generosity while rewarding fan loyalty and longevity."
RSVP will be implemented beginning with the renewal of the 2011 football season tickets. Over the coming days, season ticket holders will receive a packet in the mail with more details outlining the challenges Razorback Athletics face in securing the successful financial future of the department and more details about the RSVP program. The packets include information customized for each season ticket holder to let them know how RSVP will apply to them specifically.