The Colorado athletic department is raising donation levels in its priority seating program at football games at Folsom Field for the 2014 season.
Donations are made on a per-seat basis and will rise by $100 in three premium sections in the lower bowl. In those three sections the donation rises from $300 to $400, but most of the increases elsewhere in the stadium are $25, $50 or $75 per seat. Officials said the average increase throughout the stadium is 6 percent.
"Most of the areas haven't been touched in almost a decade, from a donations perspective," said Kurt Gulbrand, associate athletic director for development.
The revenue from the increases will be added to the athletic department's general fund and will not be used to help pay for the $143 million facilities project in and around the stadium that was recently approved by the Board of Regents, athletic director Rick George said.
Ticket prices for football will not be raised in 2014, George said.
Fans affected by the donation increases were notified last week. George said there has been some negative reaction to the increases. Season-ticket holders who responded to the Camera for this story were generally positive in their responses, or at least understanding of the athletic department's need for increased revenue.
"After 44 years of season tickets and donations, it will not impact our decisions," Jay Knutson wrote in an email. "We had already decided to increase our giving."
The Camera also asked for season-ticket holder's opinions about the increases on BuffZone's Facebook page.
"If the Buffs win six or more games next year, the $200 increase in my football Buff Club donation will be worth it -- if not, Rick George will hear from most of us," George Gramer responded. "Personally, I think the Athletic Department is nickel and diming everyone from the concessions to the fees."
The athletic department is deeply in debt to the campus because of the costs of switching conferences two years ago and three football coaching changes in the past decade. Football revenue shortfalls from lagging ticket sales also have contributed to a debt approaching $30 million.
The department is also paying much higher salaries to its head football coach and athletic director than it was to their predecessors. In addition, the costs of doing business throughout the department and steady tuition increases have negatively affected the budget.
"We are looking at all of our revenue streams as well as our expenses to run a more effective department," George said. "This is just one area of the revenue side of the equation that we have addressed at this point."
George said the department is budgeting for a "very modest increase" of 3 percent in revenues from the increases in required donations for football season tickets. Final budget figures and revenue projections will be available in March or April.
"This is a normal course of business where you have increases in pricing and donations from time to time," George said.
The increases were approved by Chancellor Phil DiStefano earlier this fall.
This is the first substantial increase in donation levels since CU began requiring donations for most season-ticket packages in 2006, Gulbrand said. Though some donation levels have been changed in the past and several sections have been added to the priority seating program since its inception.
Donations levels for five sections went down several years ago from $50 to $25. Fans in those sections will now once again pay a $50 donation.
There are 11 sections in Folsom Field that don't require a donation outside of the student sections and the four sections usually set aside for fans of visiting teams. Nine of those 11 sections are in the upper portion of the south bowl and two are in the north end zone and northeast corner.
Gulbrand, who came to CU from Michigan, said there are no areas of the stadium at Michigan outside of student seating that do not require a donation for new customers. He said CU's priority seating program is similar to most of the others in the Pac-12 Conference.
When the program was introduced, donation levels ranged from $50 to $300 depending on location in the main bowl. The prices will now range from $50 to $400 according to the 2014 Buff Club membership guide posted on the athletic department's website and cited by Gulbrand.
Donation levels required for club seating also are rising $50-$75 per seat. Some fans who prefer club seats will now donate as much as $1,850 per seat.
Gulbrand said the overall response in the early going has been "overwhelmingly positive" with some requesting to upgrade their seats.
Gulbrand said there was some discussion about whether it was an appropriate time to raise donation levels considering the attendance numbers falling dramatically the past two seasons.
"I think you weigh those factors every year, but we had to make a decision and we believe we made the best decision in the interest of our student-athletes," he said.