Sitting on a Gold Mine

By Staff

Coaching Management, 14.7, September 2006,

At the University of the Pacific, athletic administrators hoped a seat-naming program would raise enough money to cover the cost of seating in their new baseball stadium. They didn’t anticipate that in less than half a year, they would generate $160,000. The program’s initial goal has already been surpassed, and money is still coming in.

“When you talk about building a new facility, people usually think about targeting large donors,” says Head Coach Ed Sprague, a former major league all-star. “But with this program, we wanted to reach smaller donors. We thought nameplates on the seats would be a good way for young alumni, boosters, and community members to participate in building the stadium. And the response has been great.”

For $1,000, fans can engrave a seat located behind home plate, which, spread over five years, comes to 56 cents a day for the best seats at Klein Family Field. Or for $500, they can have their name engraved on one above the dugouts. Within the program’s first five months, fans named 205 of 889 available seats, which also includes the right to buy that engraved seat’s season ticket.

During this past season, the Tigers played most of their home games off-campus due to the construction, so the department kept the program relatively low-key, marketing the seat-naming opportunities through its Web site, an e-newsletter, alumni correspondence, and word of mouth. With the help of key baseball alums, nameplates have been used to honor parents, children, teammates, and former coaches. And with $2 million still needed to complete the stadium, marketers are planning to re-emphasize the seat-naming campaign in the coming months. If the department succeeds in selling nameplates for the remainder of the seats, they could raise an additional $500,000.

Cindy Spiro, Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Development, is planning to launch the next push at Pacific’s alumni reunion and continue through the close of the 2007 baseball season, when the school hopes to celebrate completion of the stadium. “One of the most valuable parts of this program is that it gives us the opportunity to talk to our young alums about philanthropy,” Spiro says. “This is a great way to encourage them to give that first gift back to the institution.”

“We want as many people as possible to be emotionally invested in our stadium, and I think it’s working,” adds Sprague. “There’s still more to be done, but we’ve built a beautiful facility and made a lot of people excited about what we’re doing.”