TCF’s cushioned seats comfort fans, generate revenue

Seat sales netted the University $71,000 last year.

by Nickalas Tabbert

The University of Minnesota athletics department wants you to rest at ease while you watch a Gophers football game on Saturdays — literally.

Seatback cushions have been available for fans since TCF Bank Stadium first opened in 2009. Last year, the seats generated $71,000 for the University and $156,000 in total, said associate athletics director Jason LaFrenz.

The University split the sum with partner firm IMG College Seating, a North Carolina-based firm that serves many football campuses across the U.S..While alcohol and concession sales will remain among the main revenue streams from football games this fall, seatback chair sales prove that even minor luxuries can enhance revenue streams.

LaFrenz said only bleacher seating can have the extra seating option — that’s about 11,000 seats. Unlike other schools, nearly half of TCF Bank Stadium’s 50,720 seats have chair backs, which limits the amount of revenue generated.

Each cushioned seat costs between $42 and $49 for the season, depending on when season-ticket holders sign up, LaFrenz said. The price rises in August.

Seats are available through Minnesota’s final game of the year against Michigan State and can be purchased at any point throughout the season. Orders have to be placed a few days before the game for the seats to be ready.

IMG, the company the University has partnered with since the stadium opened, has a customer-service location at TCF Bank Stadium to sell and rent seats. It is responsible for the installation and care for the seats and takes them down after the final home game of the season.

The University athletics department projected $80 million in revenue for this fiscal year, associate athletics director Tom McGinnis said. Nearly $9 million of that will come from football ticket sales.

Gross ticket sales revenue exceeded the athletic department’s projection last year, McGinnis said. Ticket sales this year, however, are down 7 percent through the first two Gophers’ home games.

Although it is too early to determine what cushion sales will be like this season, LaFrenz said fans often keep the seats once they buy them.

“They are surprised how much they like them,” he said.