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Update: We reached out to athletics officials for an official comment and verification with the numbers and we got "It's interesting but very complicated." Take that for whatever that's worth.
A couple of days ago, I got a text from a friend of mine. It read, "Any chance to check out a sporting event in the Old Barn is a good one", alongside a picture of State's August 21st exhibition volleyball match against Coastal Carolina. Volleyball is one of the five athletic programs on State's campus that currently calls Reynolds Coliseum home, in addition to Gymnastics, Rifle, Wrestling, and most notably, Women's Basketball.
When I got that picture, I immediately started thinking about the history of that building. The games I attended there as a kid growing up in the area and as a student, the camp outs, the convenience of the short walk to watch the Men's Basketball team play within the confines of Main Campus, and most recently, the excitement and aura of the Heritage Games, as well as the 2019 NIT slate against the likes of Hofstra, Harvard, and Lipscomb. The latter being one of the best atmospheres I've ever experienced in all my years as an NC State fan.
The recent success of the Women's Basketball program has brought back some of the glory which Reynolds deserves. Despite that, I still find myself wondering what would have happened had State never moved Men's Basketball into PNC Arena and remained in Reynolds. This begs the question, what if NC State MBB somehow moved back to Reynolds?
We continuously hear that one of the biggest reasons State can't move back to the the program's previous location is the revenue factor. Through punching some numbers and going over some possible ticket sales plans, the Red & White Network proudly brings the #PodArmy a plan (or, multiple plans, actually) which results in State moving back to the Old Barn full-time. It may never happen, and likely never will, but let's at least have some fun for a little bit.
For starters, let's look over the 2017-2018 Men's Basketball season, which was Kevin Keatts' first season as State's Head Coach. According to a Stadium.com article from 2019, the Wolfpack Men's Basketball program generated $7,324,140 in ticket sales revenue throughout the 2017-2018 season.
That came with nine ACC home games (prior to the conference moving to a twenty-game conference schedule), ten non-conference games, and one exhibition game. State's home games that year included Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Miami, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Boston College, Florida State, and Louisville in conference play. VMI, Charleston Southern, Bryant, Presbyterian, Penn State, South Carolina State, UMKC, UNC-Greensboro, Robert Morris, and Jacksonville in non-conference play, plus an exhibition game against Mars Hill.
That season, the December 9th game against UMKC was the lone matchup that took place in Reynolds Coliseum, leaving eighteen regular season games and one exhibition to be played at PNC Arena.
Now, when you take the ticket revenue of $7,324,140 and subtract the fact that the Centennial Authority (the arena's essential landlord), charges State $58,000 per home game, a number found in a 2020 article from the Raleigh News & Observer, that number falls to $6,222,140 in ticket sales revenue. I'm not exactly sure where $7,324,140 falls in comparison to most years of State's ticket sales, but I would assume that considering this was Keatts' inaugural season, and both Duke and Carolina played at PNC, it would be one of the better seasons in terms of average revenue.
Now, let's take a look at the 2019-2020 regular season, the most recent regular season without the COVID-19 pandemic looming over the heads of sports fans. State played ten ACC games at home against Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Miami, Clemson, North Carolina, Louisville, Duke, Florida State, Pitt, and Wake Forest.
Additionally, the Pack hosted Detroit Mercy, FIU, St. Francis Brooklyn, Alcorn State, Little Rock, Wisconsin, The Citadel, and Appalachian State in non-conference play, with the games against St. Francis Brooklyn and Alcorn State taking place in Reynolds.
Finally, State also hosted an exhibition against Mount Olive at PNC, finishing the season with eighteen regular season home games and an exhibition.
With a ten-game conference schedule and eight regular season non-conference games, these are the metrics we'll use for this hypothetical, of State moving Men's Basketball back to Reynolds Coliseum permanently. With that in mind, let's assume that the "level" of games are the same as well. An exhibition, seven standard non-conference games, a premier non-conference game, eight standard conference games, and two premier conference games (in this case, and most seasons, Duke & Carolina).
For your preseason exhibition, charge $5 per ticket to everyone in attendance. Assuming you sell out (basketball capacity at Reynolds is 5,500), you make $27,500 in ticket revenue.
For all regular season games, give students 1,000 tickets. Guarantee that the 200 students with the most Student Wolfpack Club points get a ticket to every game, and give out the other 800 tickets based on either a weighted lottery or on a first-come, first-serve basis. This initiative would grow the Student Wolfpack Club tremendously, and would create more buzz around smaller sports in order for students to gain more points.
If State wanted to sell season tickets, cap the total at 1,000, and sell them in the premier sideline sections for $1,500 apiece. Allow season ticket memberships to be bought based on Wolfpack Club rank, and priority also dictates how many tickets each buyer can purchase. $1,500 may seem steep, but add extra incentives as well. Drink tickets, food passes, and other extras could certainly sway big-pocket Wolfpack Club members towards buying season tickets, and I don't think that many fans would hesitate to pay steeper amounts in order to go to nearly twenty games in Reynolds. A quote from the #PodChat when brainstorming this ideas was...
"I would pay an irresponsible amount specifically for tickets to games played in Reynolds"
I'm more than sure he isn't the only Wolfpack fan who shares this sentiment.
It goes without mention that implementing this policy would likely create a bidding war amongst donors to meet the criteria for receiving a season-ticket application.
All-in-all, 1,000 season tickets at $1,500 results in $1,500,000 in season-ticket revenue.
For single-game tickets, implement a similar structure to how you buy season tickets. Go by Wolfpack Club rank, and availability and priority ranking dictate how many tickets you can buy, how many games you can buy tickets to, and which games you have opportunities to buy tickets to.
For your seven standard non-conference games, charge $25 per ticket, totaling out at $612,500 in ticket revenue. For your one premier non-conference game, charge $40 per ticket, which equals $140,000 in revenue. Keep in mind, some years State may play more than one premier non-conference game, which gives the athletic department a chance at generating more money from ticket sales.
Ex: In the 2014-2015 season, State hosted both Cincinnati and Tennessee in non-conference play, and in 2011-2012 we hosted both Indiana and Syracuse (before they joined the ACC) in non-conference play. I'd consider each of those to be premier non-conference matchups, and you could get away with charging more for tickets. Truthfully, the same practice would probably even work against smaller schools that are somewhat local. East Carolina, UNC-Greensboro, and UNC-Wilmington, or Charlotte would likely be better draws than some of the smaller schools we've played in the past, and would be better revenue outlets.
Now, onto ACC play. For your eight standard ACC games, charge $60 per ticket. That comes out to $1,680,000 in ACC-related revenue. For your two premier ACC games (most years Duke and Carolina, the outlier year in every three-year set where we only play Duke in Cameron they can be replaced with Virginia, Florida State, or possibly even Louisville), charge $100 per ticket, coming out to $700,000 in sales for those two games.
All-in-all, between your exhibition ($27,500), season-ticket sales ($1,500,000) seven standard non-conference games ($612,500), one premier non-conference matchup ($140,000), eight standard ACC games, ($1,680,000), and two premier conference games ($700,000), the total revenue comes out to $4,660,000. Once factored in that we currently expect State to be taking in approximately $6,222,140 in ticket sales (revert to the Stadium.com and Raleigh News & Observer articles from earlier), the difference in ticket sales from its current structure to the preposed Revamp Reynolds plan is $1,562,140, with Reynolds on the lower-end of that amount. Can that difference be made up with parking, concessions or other revenue streams? Does NC State get any revenue from parking at PNC? We weren't able to find any answers to these in our research.
What if NC State just didn't sell season tickets? It gives fans more chances to attend games, but you can keep some of the ideas from Plan #1 in terms of opportunity for purchase and distribution.
Keep the plans of going off Wolfpack Club priority points to determine who can buy tickets to which games, and how many they can buy. Charge $5 for your exhibition ($27,500), $25 for seven standard non-conference games ($787,500), $40 for your premier conference game ($180,000), $50 for six standard ACC games ($1,350,000), $75 for two secondary-level ACC games (675,000), and $100 for your two premier ACC games ($900,000). This totals out to $3,920,000 in ticket revenue, $2,302,140 short of the $6,222,140 mark we mentioned earlier.
Keep in mind, in this scenario, you're selling 4,500 single-game tickets to each game as opposed to 3,500 since there aren't any season-ticket holders, alongside 1,000 tickets still delegated to students under the same format as before.
You may have also noticed that we included a new pricing level of secondary-level ACC games. While Duke and Carolina are going to be the two premier ACC games in years State gets both teams at home, there are still a slew of other home games that State fans would be eager to attend. Florida State, Virginia, and Louisville all initially come to mind, with other ACC programs that look to be on the upswing (specifically Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech) possibly in this frame as well. In 2021-2022 State is only set to play Duke once, and it's in Durham. Hypothetically, Carolina and Virginia would be your premier games, with Louisville and Florida State as your secondary games, followed by Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Clemson, and Syracuse are your standard games.
That idea could even be added to the initial option as well, pushing Plan #1's revenue generated from the eight non-premier ACC games from $1,680,000 to $1,785,000, and decreasing the deficit from $6,222,140 from $1,562,140 to $1,457,140.
Personally, I prefer Plan #1 of these two because it generates more revenue, and allows for big-money Wolfpack Club donors the right to be able to purchase high-demand season tickets. But, Plan #2 probably provided a bit more flexibility for the future.
Here is undoubtedly the most practical option, which is playing four games in Reynolds. Continue to play a lower-end non-conference opponent that you get to brand as a Heritage Game for the first game, and play an upper-end non-conference game for your second.
Additionally, I think it would be neat to always play the Heritage Game against a smaller North Carolina school. Western Carolina, UNC-Asheville, High Point, and schools of that nature come to mind.
As for the upper-end non-conference game, I'm not necessarily suggesting Kansas or Kentucky, but more-so South Carolina, Tennessee, VCU, or another program of that status. Years where State hosts the ACC/Big Ten Challenge would be perfect for this, and the win over Auburn in December of 2018 stands out to me as a game that would've been fun in Reynolds.
Moving into conference play, I think it would be cool to always play Wake Forest in Reynolds. Playing the Demon Deacons in the Old Barn would add an element to an otherwise defunct rivalry, and give State fans a reason to be excited for the Deacs to come to Raleigh. Also, since the Pack hosts Wake every season, it would be easy for fans to get used to the process.
Finally, game four should come when State plays that inevitable 9PM tipoff on a Wednesday night against Boston College, or Miami, or Pitt, or Notre Dame, or whatever team is without a doubt going to be playing on Tuesday during the ACC Tournament. I'd much rather than game be played in front of 5,500 in Reynolds as opposed to 6,500 in PNC.
We can't really find exact numbers as to how State could break even or prevent revenue losses in this plan, but it's more of an idea spitball than anything. Hopefully, this gets the creative juices flowing for those that are making these decisions.
Another theory is that State brings back a 21st-century version of the Dixie Classic. Invite seven schools from around the country to come to Reynolds for an eight-team, Friday-Saturday-Sunday tournament with 12PM, 2:30PM, 5:30PM, and 8PM games on Friday and Saturday, and a 3PM third-place and 7PM championship game on Sunday. Have the Wolfpack play in the 8PM games no matter the circumstances on Friday and Saturday, hopefully ending up in the championship game on Sunday. This would be a fun way to get fans back into Reynolds during non-conference play, and see some interesting teams from around the nation. This could generate revenue from outer sources and television exposure around the country, possibly becoming one of the season's most highly-anticipated multi-team events.
Bridging the Gaps
Going back to Plan #1, there's a clear issue. State is losing around ~$1.5 Million in ticket sales. So, how can the athletic department cover those expenses?
Remember when I mentioned bidding wars between Wolfpack Club donors over who could buy season tickets, and who could buy season tickets to which games? That, alongside the reality that in the given scenario you would essentially have to be a Wolfpack Club to get your hands on tickets would certainly increase donations, and membership numbers as a whole. Student Wolfpack Club memberships and funds would increase as well, although that likely doesn't make too much of a dent.
Additionally, with more games in Reynolds, parking immediately becomes a hot commodity. It's no secret that State lacks parking, as do all college campuses, so at charging to park in section of campus could make up some of the revenue as well, along with parking passes for season-ticket holders. State would get a larger cut of concession sales as well I'd assume, and wouldn't have to employ nearly as many members of a gameday-operations staff.
An event like Primetime with the Pack would also take a small chunk out of that gap as well.
Keep in mind, we didn't break into court-side seats, or a hypothetical addition of luxury boxes above the main seating areas as well. Not having luxury or corporate boxes would be a huge loss, but if the administration was ever serious about moving back to campus, maybe that would change.
So, between Wolfpack Club Member bidding wars for priority points, an increases in Wolfpack Club and Student Wolfpack Club Memberships, an increase in parking and concession revenue, a smaller number of staff members needed, court-side seats and hypothetical luxury boxes, plus an event like Primetime with the Pack, could State reach ~$1,500,000 to cover the gap? I'm honestly not sure. But, if they didn't, the Wolfpack Club could create a "Reynolds Fund", designed to matching what revenue would be in PNC, and possibly even exceeding it.
What else does moving to Reynolds do?
Red & White Network guest writer Bill O'Donnell penned an awesome piece about his hopes for Hillsborough Street in the coming years that I thoroughly enjoyed, and certainly agreed with. If the Wolfpack moved back into Reynolds Coliseum permanently, more businesses, bars, and fun attractions would make their way to Hillsborough Street for sure.
Can you imagine a Saturday-afternoon bar crawl down Hillsborough Street ending with a stop at Players' Retreat before a Men's Basketball game in Reynolds? And better year, a Saturday-NIGHT bar crawl down Hillsborough Street after a Men's Basketball win in Reynolds? I think the mouths of both students and alumni are starting to foam just at the thought of such a thing.
The buzz around campus was palpable on game days as a student. Everyone was outside moving around, getting pumped for the games and in general just excited. Engaging Reynolds to be a bigger part of the Men's Basketball Program would immediately pump much needed life back into what is a stagnating program.
To be honest, I don't think State's Men's Basketball program is ever moving back to Reynolds. More realistically, a new venue would be constructed on Centennial, but boy, it's fun to think about and would be a blast if they did.
You'll never convince me that fan excitement around the program wouldn't immediately increase. Games would be more fun to attend, atmospheres would be better, Hillsborough Street would improve, the college experience provided to NC State students would improve, recruits would be more impressed, and as a whole, the program would be a step closer to achieving it's rightful glory at the top of the mountain of elite college basketball programs.
Thanks for sticking with me over the course of these 3,000 words, we know that was a lot. Let us know what you and your friends think in the comments and on Twitter, and share a story about your favorite moment in the Old Barn while you're at it.