Warchant - Florida State Football season ticket sales facing major swoon in 2019
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Florida State Football season ticket sales facing major swoon in 2019

After dropping each of the past four years, Florida State's season ticket sales for football are experiencing their greatest decline yet.
After dropping each of the past four years, Florida State's season ticket sales for football are experiencing their greatest decline yet. (AP)

Florida State's football season ticket sales, which have been declining every year since 2014, have slid into a free fall this offseason and will cost the Seminoles' fiscally challenged athletics department several million dollars.

According to numbers obtained by Warchant.com through a public records request, FSU is in danger of selling less than 25,000 of a possible 40,000 "main bowl" season tickets for the 2019 season. (Those numbers do not include tickets sold in suites or the Champions Club -- although those numbers appear to be tracking downward as well.)

If FSU finishes with 25,000 or less as expected, that would mean a drop of more than 7,000 season tickets --- more than 20 percent -- from last season's total, which already was the worst in several years.

With most season tickets selling for $330 apiece, that's a reduction in revenue of well over $2 million. And that doesn't include the millions of dollars in lost booster contributions, which are required to purchase those tickets, as well as residual losses in concessions and other game-day sales.

While daunting, the dropoff has not caught Florida State officials by surprise. The Seminoles are coming off of back-to-back sub-par seasons (7-6 in 2017 and 5-7 in 2018), and they've got a less-than-desirable home schedule this fall.

"It's a reflection of the last two or three seasons we've had, the schedule we have at home, and the attitude of this generation between 20 and 40 about going to live sporting events," FSU athletics director David Coburn told Warchant in a recent interview.

Indeed, season ticket sales are falling across college football, but Florida State's issues are exacerbated by the recent struggles on the field and the lack of marquee opponents coming to Doak Campbell Stadium, particularly in odd-numbered years when FSU plays rival Florida and Clemson on the road.

FSU's home schedule this year features non-conference games against Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama State, and ACC games against Louisville, N.C. State, Syracuse and Miami.

Coburn, who is in his first year in the position, is working to improve the non-conference scheduling for the future. The Seminoles recently announced a blockbuster home-and-home series with the University of Georgia in 2027-28, and FSU also will host Notre Dame in 2021.

But neither of those will help right now.

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To gain a clearer understanding of FSU's ticket woes, Warchant requested a snapshot of where season ticket sales stood on May 1 in each of the past five years.

As of May 1, 2019, Florida State had sold 23,424 season tickets for the main bowl. That means more than 40 percent of the 40,000 available season tickets were still available.

While that number will rise somewhat as the season approaches, history indicates that it won't increase by much. On May 1 of 2018, FSU had sold 31,111 season tickets; it finished that year with 32,030. One year earlier, the Seminoles sold 33,243 by May 1 and finished with 34,600.

So even reaching 25,000 season tickets this year could be tough.

Florida State season ticket sales
Season Season ticket sales (main bowl) Sales as of May 1 (main bowl) Champions Club season ticket sales

2015

38,600

37,201

N/A

2016

36,400

34,333

2,971

2017

34,600

33,243

3,197

2018

32,030

31,111

3,404

2019*

23,758

23,424

2,752

Sales as of May 8, 2019.

Not surprisingly, Florida State's season ticket sales have fallen each year since 2014, when the Seminoles sold their entire 45,000-seat allotment following the '13 national championship season. That was FSU's first season ticket sellout since 2003.

The "main bowl" season ticket block was reduced to 40,000 when the new Champions Club was unveiled in 2016, but even that luxury area appears to be trending in the wrong direction after posting gains each of the past two years. Champions Club sales went from 2,971 in the inaugural season to 3,197 and 3,404 in subsequent years. As of early May this year, they were at 2,752.

While the losses in season ticket revenue are substantial, the Seminoles also are expected take a major hit in individual-game ticket sales because there are so few marquee matchups. Miami is the only high-profile program on the home schedule, and the Hurricanes don't bring close to as many fans as Florida and Clemson will in even-numbered years.

According to FSU's planned budget for the coming year, the Seminoles are projecting a decrease of more than $8 million in overall football ticket revenue -- from over $23 million to around $15 million.

Coburn said the Seminoles are hoping to offset some of those losses with money they make from their season opener against Boise State in Jacksonville. Because of the way that deal is structured -- it originally was a Florida State home game -- the Seminoles are hoping to profit more that than they would from a normal game at Doak.

"Jacksonville tickets are going pretty well, and we hope to make up some ground, budget-wise, there," Coburn said.

What's not factored into any of these numbers, however, is the financial hit Seminole Boosters Inc., will take to its annual fund, which is largely dependent on season tickets sales. Most seats require an annual donation to Boosters of $100 to $500 -- and much more if a person hopes to buy several seats together.

Earlier this year, Coburn sent a personal letter to boosters and season-ticket holders asking them to step up and support the program during this tough stretch.

When speaking with Warchant late last week, Coburn stressed the same message.

"We've got to continue to work at selling tickets and attracting boosters back into the organization," Coburn said. "We need to convince our supporters that we need them now more than ever. Even if they're not going to buy tickets, they still need to stay with the boosters and help us."

ALSO SEE: Five Takes: Closer look at why FSU football ticket sales have plummeted

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