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Season-ticket holders will pitch in extra for seats

A view up the third baseline of the future stadium.
A view up the third baseline of the future stadium. The State

Season-ticket holders will have to plunk down more money for their seats at USC’s new baseball stadium.

The school plans to charge a “seat donation” — commonly known as seat licenses — in addition to the charge for a season ticket, which will remain $210. The plan was approved Wednesday by the school’s Intercollegiate Activities Committee and will become final if approved by the board of trustees at its meeting June 27.

The seat donation — which is tax-deductible — will start at $25 for the cheapest seats, down the first- and third-base lines. It increases in relation to the quality of the seat, rising to $1,500 for club seats and peaking at $35,000 for one of the five suites.

Season-ticket holders must be members of the Gamecock Club. A certain level of giving is required for eligibility to buy tickets. For example, to be eligible to buy box-seat tickets, one must be a Full Scholarship donor, which requires an annual contribution of $1,350.

The plan could generate as much as $570,000 in revenue per season through seat donations, in addition to $1.06 million in season-ticket sales. That is the best-case scenario, in which every season ticket is sold; USC projects 75 percent will be sold.

“We have high expectations, and rightfully so, but there’s a cost to it,” South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman said.

USC will not be the first school to implement such a plan for its baseball program. Wichita State opened its stadium in 2000 by selling seat licenses. No other sport at USC requires seat donations.

Every seat in the stadium is part of the plan. But there “absolutely” will be walk-up tickets available, according to Bryan Risner, the athletic department’s development director. Prices for general-admission tickets have not been set.

“We’re going to be as aggressive as we can to sell it out,” Risner said. “I think that’s one of the reasons we kept the prices low. Because our commitment to (coach) Ray Tanner was to give him the stadium. And we’re not as concerned with, let’s say, dollars and cents from day one as we are with making sure we have an affordable range of opportunities for our fans.”

Money raised from seat donations will go toward Tanner’s operating budget.

The baseball program loses about $600,000 a year, and next year it will be about $2.5 million in the red, including debt service on a bond for the stadium. The program has an operating budget of $1.8 million and estimates $1.2 million in revenue next year.

USC’s ticket revenue from baseball for 2008-09 is estimated at $825,000, or 3.97 percent of ticket revenue for the department. That is behind football (87.7 percent) and men’s basketball (8.06 percent) and ahead of women’s basketball (0.19 percent.)

The school plans to sell naming rights for the new stadium. By law, any sponsor must pay at least half of the $24.7 million construction costs. (The total budget for the stadium is $35.6 million.)

“These things sometimes have a life of their own,” Hyman said of naming rights. “Sometimes you get close, and then there’s an issue and you get (it) resolved. But we’re still working on that.”

Hyman told the board the stadium is nearly 50 percent complete and responded with a quick “yes” to a board member who asked whether it would be ready for the 2009 season.

Seat plan

For the right to buy a USC baseball season ticket ($210) at the new stadium, one must be a member of the Gamecock Club and pay an annual “seat-license” fee (SLF).

Black 1,746 Century/Classroom Club or above ($150) $25
Garnet 1,807 Century/Classroom Club or above $50
Gold 1,250 Century/Classroom Club or above $75
Box 113 Full Scholarship ($1,350) and above $115
Club 103 Silver Spur ($3,000) and above $1,500
Suites 60* Garnet Spur ($7,000) and above $35,000

* The five suites each include 12 seats.

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

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