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Buffalo Bulls Athletics announces West Club premium seating for 2015 football season

Blue and White Club

It's nice in a way: that last week happened fast. If we were going to need a new basketball coach, and we were going to end up with Nate Oats, it's best that it did.

That's also given us a break from what we thought was the next big(gish) story: UB's "BIG" announcement at tonight's barbeque dinner.

"Big" announcements have run the gamut over the past few years from underwhelming to truly big, so it was hard to do much in terms of guessing but throw anything out there. As it turns out, our best guess - a formal announcement and implementation of the long-planned East Club - wasn't far off.

In what appears to be a change in plans from the East Club - not an additional plan - UB will instead transform the midfield sections of the 200 level into premium loge seating. The "West Club" upon completion will include 400 outdoor seats and an indoor lounge area with the food, TV, and other amenities that you'd expect.

I am not certain why the plans shifted from the other side of the stadium to the West sideline (and I should point out that the only reason I've given up on the East Club has been total radio silence), but I imagine the already-extant infrastructure on that side played a role. It appears from the renderings available at the link above that the lounge area will take up a chunk of the suite level that includes not just big donor seating, but also the press box and broadcast area. How that all fits together remains to be seen.

In theory, the East Club and its more easily-implementable West Club progeny is a chance for UB Athletics to start making more money more quickly and fund much-needed facilities improvements. In practice, UB desperately needs a strong reception to this project.

The link a few paragraphs above is to the main page of the West Club project on the Blue and White Club's website. Deeper in their setup is the brochure for the club itself. That's where we find key information:

  • "Coming August 2015." This is good. Like I said above, I bet this is an easier go than the East Club, and getting it functional ASAP is a must.
  • Season ticket cost is now $125. This happens.
  • Required donation for the West Club is $1,000/season (outdoor seats only) or $1,200/season (lounge access)
  • Ten-year commitment.
Those last two bullets are not a huge surprise (I believe they're similar to the proposed East Club asks), but they are the key to whether or not this is successful or not. If I may editorialize for a moment, most of the season ticket holders I know sit in sections that will become the West Club. They've been there for years. When the new loyalty points system was introduced a few years ago, longtime season ticket holders earned points for that longevity, but could be jumped in the priority process by someone willing to make a large enough donation.

The West Club will likely force these folks to move. The loyalty points system created the possibility that people would be jumped by someone new coming in with deeper pockets. The West Club system creates another, more likely possibility, that people will not only be jumped but be pushed down simply because they don't have deeper pockets themselves.

I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, this is Big Time Athletics. This is something that happens and if we want to improve and not be a laughingstock we need better facilities and we need more money. On the other, there's two populations at play here: the people who used to sit in these seats and those who will sit in them going forward. If enough of the latter group come fill up the West Club, then it's served its purpose and whatever fallout comes from the former group will be for the most part a tree in the forest.

Should the West Club not be popular, however, it will be conspicuous as the best sightlines and longest-standing fans in the stadium are left unused and shunted elsewhere. It will likely render off-limits the very best seating in the stadium for soccer games. To those of us for whom that matters, it really matters. The 100s are terrible for soccer.

Depending on where the lounge goes, it may also push the press box to a less direct angle, and you only have to look back to the Men's Basketball season opener to see how some of the most prominent voices in Buffalo media react to being moved from their presumed rightful spots.

I will not begin to speculate on the appropriateness of the chosen price point for these seats. People with more familiarity with their market than me have landed on it. If the Club fills up, the incoming money will be worth it. If it doesn't, it will be an especially conspicuous black eye. Either way, it will certainly be "Big."

Go Bulls