Penn State football season ticket holders will have a chance to move or transfer their seats, beginning with the 2011 season.
It could cost them, however.
The University's Nittany Lion Club recently announced its Seat Transfer and Equity Plan (STEP), a two-phase ticket location program.
Due to the financial realities of big-time college football, such a STEP was probably inevitable in Happy Valley.
Currently, in order to have a chance to purchase season tickets, one must join the NLC and donate at a certain level, which earns one points towards priority purchase of a certain number of seats for football and basketball. In order to get a chance for two seats, one must donate at least $100 per seat.
That does not include the cost of the tickets themselves, which are $55 each, or for parking around Beaver Stadium.
Under the new plan, where one sits in the stadium will depend on one's level of giving. The more season ticket holders can pony up on the donation end, the better the seats they can get.
This is not something new. In fact, Penn State is one of the only major college athletic programs around that does not currently align football season ticket locations and donor giving levels.
Other schools have donor levels at much higher per seat. Even with crowds of 106,000 plus at home games, that could leave PSU at a financial disadvantage.
Since football funds Penn State's other intercollegiate sports teams, the school claims it will need to continue to generate more bang for its bucks.
The Nittany Lion Club's STEP will give club members who purchase 2011 season tickets the opportunity to retain their seats in the current location, upgrade their seats to a more desired location (based on NLC point total and seat availability), or relocate their seats to a location that requires a contribution more closely aligned to their preferred level of giving.
Season ticket holders whose NLC contributions meet the donation requirements under STEP will have the option of remaining in their current seats without making any changes to their donation.
The university is revamping the stadium, however, by adding handicapped accessible seating along both sidelines, wrapping the student section along the entire south end of the stadium and relocating visiting team seating to the top of the North Upper Deck.
That means there are certain ticket holders who will have to be moved, regardless of giving level.
I received my NLC STEP brochure in the mail last week, and as the owner of a season ticket in Section SK, I have discovered that, come 2011, I will be reassigned if I continue with my ticket, since SK will now be part of Paternoville (the student section).
For 2011, Beaver Stadium is being divided into four seating zones, based on contribution levels.
The blue zone requires a donation of $100 per seat, per year, primarily for end zone seating; the red zone requires a donation of $400 per seat, appropriately enough, along the 20 yard line; the black zone, $600 per seat, near midfield; and the green zone, $2,000 per seat for sideline seatbacks.
Currently, the program is in Phase I, which provides a first-time, limited chance for current NLC members to apply to transfer their season tickets to family and/or friends for the 2011 season, something that had not been previously allowed. Applications for transfers are being accepted through June 30, 2010.
Phase II is the Seat Equity Plan for the retention, upgrade or relocation of tickets, in which a NLC member's annual contribution will be based on the quantity of tickets one wishes to purchase; whether the donor wants additional benefits, such as preferred or reserved tickets; and desired location of the tickets.
The second phase of the plan will begin on July 1, 2010 with the start of the NLC membership year.
Penn State considers the new plan to be fairness-based (at least to those who can afford it) and the university claims it will reduce the "probability" of future ticket increases.
While the logistics of implementing this plan make it prudent to phase it in a year into the future, the timing is probably good for the Lions, who will start a new QB next year, as it will be locking in fans a season ahead of time. Will Joe Paterno, who will turn 83 on Dec. 21, be on the sidelines in two years, continuing college football's longest coaching tenure? Who knows what time has in store?
In this era of professional seat licenses and increasing ticket prices, Penn State held out pretty long, but eventually had to go along for at least part of the ride.