Changes In O-Dome, Hoops Ticket Policies

By winning the 2006 NCAA basketball championship, Coach Billy Donovan has the Florida program at a truly elite level. Demand for season tickets is at its highest in school history and significant upgrades have been made to the O’Connell Center for the 2006-2007 season.

State of the art video replay boards have been purchased for $2.5 million and are expected to be in place and functional when the Gators begin their season in the fall. Florida was the only Southeastern Conference school without replay boards in its arena last season.

Florida purchased the court on which the Gators won the 2006 NCAA championship in Indianapolis at a cost of $70,000 to replace the seven-year-old court in the O-Dome. Florida spent $15,000 resurfacing the court which was first unveiled to Florida fans at the national championship celebration back in April.

In addition, the UAA will be placing a 2006 National Champions sign outside the O-Dome at a cost of $13,000.

With Florida’s program maintaining such a high profile, generating new sources of revenue has become a priority for Athletic Director Jeremy Foley and Gator Boosters, the fund-raising arm of the University Athletic Association. Florida ranked eighth in the nation in the overall basketball budget but just 21st in the nation in basketball revenue in 2006, trailing schools such as Alabama, Florida State, Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin and North Carolina State in revenue generated.

For just the second time in Coach Billy Donovan’s tenure at Florida, per-seat ticket contributions from boosters has been raised. Florida’s per-seat contribution ranks fourth in the SEC behind Kentucky, Alabama and Vanderbilt, which have a price tag of $1,000 per seat for their premium contribution levels.

For the first time in school history, football and basketball booster contributions will be separated as part of a new “club level” program for basketball that is similar to the one used for football. Booster contributions to football will count only toward ticket/seating privileges for football and basketball booster contributions will count only toward ticket/seating privileges at the O-Dome for basketball.

Duke’s club level program generates $3.45 million per year while North Carolina raises almost $1 million.

Florida will have several different club levels with the highest level earning tickets for 20 courtside seats. Beginning in 2007-2008, those members who donate $2,000 per seat will receive parking privileges. For the upcoming season, all season ticket holders that had parking privileges last season will have them again.

Fans who are presently season ticket holders at the O-Dome will not be bumped from their tickets if they don’t join a club level. Fans who do join a club level will have priority on seating assignments and improvements. Fans who already have season tickets will be required to increase the level of their per-seat contributions to match those of the section which their seats are located and then pay for the cost of the tickets ($348 per season ticket). Season ticket holders will be encouraged to contribute at a level in which they are comfortable although that might require reassigning those season tickets to another area in the arena in keeping with their financial contribution.

New season ticket holders or those who wish to improve their seats will fall under the guidelines of the Gator Booster Priority Point system with ‘06 Club members assigned first. Starting Five Club members will have second priority with 3-Point Club members assigned third. Per seat contributors will be assigned fourth and location will be determined by availability. SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament tickets will be assigned by Gator Booster priority points and not all boosters will be guaranteed post season tickets.

Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.