Quarterly report shows decline in Memorial Stadium endowment seating sales

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Tony Zhou/Staff

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A quarterly report released Thursday by Cal Athletics shows Endowment Seating Program sales at Memorial Stadium have declined since the previous quarter.

The latest numbers, calculated from March 31 to June 30, show a loss of 77 seats sold. The report noted, however, that 32 additional seats were sold in the two months after this quarter, bumping the total number to 1,812 out of an available 2,902 seats — 62.4 percent of the total seat inventory.

On a year-by-year basis, Cal Athletics did see progress in its ESP numbers. From June 2012 to June 2013, it witnessed a net gain of 35 seats in 124 new seat sales.

The lost seats in the last quarter came from the Field Club and the Stadium Club, two lower-priced zones in the ESP section. The two sections lost 47 and 32 seats, respectively, during this quarter.

The University Club, the most expensive section, showed minimal sales progress, with only two additional seats sold.

Despite the decrease in sold seats, Cal Athletics exhibited little signs of panic.

“Over time, it is expected that there will be fluctuations in ESP seat sales as some participants join and others back out for a variety of reasons,” said Herb Benenson, associate athletic director, in a statement. “Attrition is also more likely to occur in the fourth quarter due to the seasonality of ESP payments due in April of each year.”

Cal Athletics received a total of $11.2 million in pledge seats in fiscal year 2013 — the lowest annual ESP revenue in the first four years of the program. ESP revenue has declined continuously since 2010, when Cal Athletics received $14.4 million from seat sales.

Cal Athletics, however, received more than $5 million from three other sources of revenue, raising the total cash received this fiscal year to $16.4 million.

Due to its 2010 renovation of Memorial Stadium, Cal Athletics is obligated to pay annual interest of $18.1 million until principal starts to be paid back in 2032. According to the new financial model within the report by professors from the Haas School of Business, the debt payments may rise to as high as $81.9 million in 2053.

To combat the slow progress of ESP sales, Cal Athletics has brought forth multiple reforms in ticket sales and has expanded its sources of revenue, as outlined in the Haas report.

The most important among the new sources is Funds Functioning as Endowment, where revenues from other streams will be invested to create bigger earnings. The quarterly report noted that the FFE balance was $2 million more than the base-case scenario at the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

“The balance in the FFE is a key metric,” Benenson said.

Another change was the creation of a professional seating and tickets staff, who expanded Cal Athletics’ sales approach through corporate bundles, discounted single-season ESP perks and rentals. The non-ESP premier seat revenue and event-marketing revenue added $885,062 to the total this fiscal year.

Cal Athletics is still searching for possible revenue through rentals. In August, the Haas School of Business added the Innovation Lab in Memorial Stadium for collaborative learning programs. On Oct. 1, a new cardio and weights facility will open to all Recreational Sports Facility members.

Contact Seung Y. Lee at [email protected]

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that the campus will necessarily face a $81.9 million debt payment in 2053. In fact, that figure is only a projection based on a report written by professors from the Haas School of Business.

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