HAF members grumble over possible increases for seating

Michael Casagrande

The $32.5 million renovation of Diddle Arena was supposed to make the 40-year-old building more fan-friendly.

Apparently, the word never reached the 43 Hilltopper Athletic Foundation members who attended the last of three forums concerning new seating arrangements and revised donation rate structure for next year.

The concerned HAF members met for over two hours last night at Sloan Convention Center to address next year’s changes. Tensions ran high for some members at several moments during the forum.

“The forum was informative. I think they did a good job making the presentations, whether you agree with them or not.” HAF member and season ticket holder Steve James said.

Members were invited to attend the forums (Feb. 25, March 1 or 3) through letters sent out to HAF members in early February.

HAF plans on raising the donation levels for all of the present men’s basketball season ticket packages. The increase will not affect women’s basketball or football.

HAF currently provides $850,000 (18.4 percent) to student-athlete scholarships . Under the new plan, that number will balloon to $1.2 million (24.5 percent).

By comparison, the University of Louisville Cardinal Athletic Fund contributes $6 million (100 percent).

The need for an increase in donations stems from a rise in tuition at Western. The cost for in-state tuition has risen 46.6% since that last HAF donation increase in 1999.

“I wouldn’t say these changes are coming out of nowhere,” HAF Assistant Director Tom Keith said. “We’ve looked at what Creighton and ‘mid-major’ programs have been doing. We found out we are way behind the times and we’re trying to get in line with other schools.”

HAF members currently sitting in Section 105 would be affected the most under the new plan. They are currently required to donate a minimum of $125 per seat to HAF not including ticket price.

Under the new proposal, their donation would jump to $750 for those sitting in the first three rows of that section in order to keep their seats for next year.

HAF Executive Director Jim Clark hopes that the new plan does not out-price the Bowling Green market.

“The board and the seating committee have looked at it, and these are what we think are fair prices,” Clark said. “If it’s not, we are willing to go back as a committee to examine it.”

In order to meet American Disabilities Act regulations, as well as building codes, a number of seats from the current configuration will be eliminated.

To deal with the displacement of season ticket holders from their current seats, HAF has devised a complicated priority point system that will allow fans with the highest number of points to choose their seats for the next year first.

HAF members disagree on how the “priority points” should be awarded. The mostly over-65 crowd criticized what they thought was disrespect for the old time fans.

One elderly man, who refused to give his name afterwards, told the forum he had been attending Hilltopper basketball games even before Diddle opened in 1963, but he could not afford season tickets if the proposal was passed in its current form.

The effect on student fans will be minimal under the current proposal. Student tickets will be located in sections 108, 109, 110, 208, 209, 210 as well as the current seats on the floor behind the baskets.

The goal of the new students seats is to create a “wall” of student support in the end zone closest to the opponent’s bench.

The proposal still has many hurdles to clear before the full board will vote on it. HAF hopes to have the plan finalized by the third week of April.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]