We had mentioned last year that Florida’s athletic department was proposing raising Georgia-Florida ticket prices by $10. The price stayed level for 2011, but this morning the Georgia athletic board called Florida’s increase and raised them an additional $10 raise for the 2012 season. The cheapest ticket for the game in Jacksonville will rise from $40 to $60, and club level seats will jump from $70 to $100. The price increases project to another $1.779 million in revenue from the game.
Schools are realizing that they can charge a premium price for marquee neutral site games – something we’re seeing with the season opener at the Georgia Dome. Athletic director Greg McGarity notes, “If you look at the other schools that play these traditional games—games of this magnitude—we are well, well behind the curve and have been for years.”
The most direct comparison is the Oklahoma-Texas game in Dallas. Tickets for that game have been at least $95 for several seasons. Club level tickets for the Arkansas-Texas A&M game at the new Dallas stadium were priced at $300 in 2009. Tickets for the novelty Northwestern-Illinois game at Wrigley Field last season started at $50 and went up to three times that amount.
So McGarity’s correct in that the WLOCP was a bit of a bargain, but today’s vote was only one step in adjusting ticket prices upward. The board passed on additional increases for 2014 and 2017 that would raise base prices to $75. That decision was less out of concern for a $75 ticket but, as Marc Weiszer put it, “some board members expressed concern about setting those prices so many years ahead of time.” In other words, the market in 2017 might support quite a bit more than a $75 ticket.
The increase in Jacksonville ticket prices just about mutes any talk about the series returning to campus any time soon. The debate about the neutrality of Jacksonville comes up any time Georgia loses, but it’s soon going to become a cash cow with which neither program is willing to part. Each school already makes $3.4 million over a two-year period from the game, approximiately $1 million more than they’d make from a home game once every two seasons. This price increase brings the two-year haul to over $5 million, and if the 2017 increase is eventually approved, that payoff breaks $7 million.
That’s not to say home game tickets won’t increase for Georgia as well or that Georgia couldn’t put a premium price on certain home games. Programs do it all the time. It’s just that prices for neutral site games are on a trajectory all their own, and Georgia or Florida would be foolish 1) not to capitialize on the trend and 2) to give up the neutral site game that opens this premium ticket market for them.