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How the Falcons are planning for limited seating at games in 2020


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New Falcons beat writer for The Athletic

 

https://theathletic.com/1944948/2020/07/22/how-the-falcons-are-planning-for-limited-seating-at-games-in-2020/?source=emp_shared_article

 

Don Rovak said when his family of four goes to Falcons games during the season, it can be split into two demographics of game-goers. His sons, who are 12 and 14 years old, like their space.

“Usually the biggest gripe for them is someone tall sitting in front of them,” said Rovak, who is the vice president of ticket sales and services for the Falcons.

But his wife falls into another category. Like many others, games are social events for her. She’s there to have a drink with some friends or to chat up a stranger or two. It’s a chance to get to know more people, to high-five the person sitting next to her in the excitement of the moment. Rovak said if he were to take her to a game in 2020, it probably wouldn’t be a fun experience for her as it had been in the past. Simply speaking, all the things that draw her to a game, “that’s not going to exist,” Rovak said.

As of the third full week in July, Rovak, his team and all of the Falcons’ organization are planning on having limited capacity seating during the season. It’s important to note that this is the plan right now. During a pandemic, time has had a way of changing plans, so the Falcons’ plan very well could change at any point prior to the season starting or even once it does. But the Falcons are hopeful they’re doing right by fans with the plan they have currently set up.

Last week, an outline of that plan was sent to Falcons’ PSL and season ticket holders.

“I think the big positives are if anybody missed a PSL payment this past year or has an upcoming PSL payment for next year and they want to extend that financial agreement to the backend of their deal they can do so,” Rovak said. “So, basically, we will only be collecting one of the PSL payments over the course of the two years. Another benefit that we communicated was for anybody who is keeping their money on the account and moving their money towards next year, they would get a price freeze for 2021.”

He said in a normal year, that would be an average deal, but it could be a bigger deal next year with the NFL expanding to a 17-game regular season with the potential for a ninth home game in 2021.

But looking specifically to the 2020 season, Rovak explained the next steps the organization is planning on taking will give the group a better understanding of what it will really be undertaking once the season begins with limited fan seating for games. Beginning on Wednesday, PSL and season ticket holders will receive a survey to fill out regarding their interest in attending the first four home games of the season. If they do wish to attend games, they will rank, in order, their preferences for which games they would like to attend. For reference, the first four home games of the season are against Seattle, Chicago, Carolina and Detroit.

Capacity will be limited to between 10,000 and 20,000 fans, which Rovak said is around 20 percent of the seats that can be used in the stadium. He said the operations team has been walking Mercedes-Benz Stadium to figure out exactly how many seats can be accommodated. What it has decided on is an almost checker-board-like seating. So, if you take the 70,000 seat venue, there will be pods of seat sizes ranging from one single seat to a group of six seats together spread out across the stadium.

These pods will be designated with different price categories, so when PSL or season ticket holders are chosen for one of those first four games, they will have to select seats within their price category.

So, who will be chosen for which games and how many games of those first four will a single PSL or season ticket member be allowed access to? Rovak said the team is hoping the surveys can help answer that question, but the organization is currently projecting that most season-ticket holders will be able to go to one, maybe two, of those first four home games.

When asked which way he felt fans are leaning between not feeling comfortable to go to games vs. being absolutely willing to go, Rovak said he thinks there will be more fans upset they didn’t get chosen to go to one of those first four home games than the ones upset that they have to opt out completely on their own accord.

“That’s my personal belief because I just think when I picture who I am going to be hearing from more, we are going to be hearing from fans that have been going to games for 20 years and now, ‘You’re only allowing me to go to one game in the next two months? That’s ridiculous,'” Rovak said. “I think we are going to hear from that guy a lot. And I feel for that guy. It pains me.”

Rovak said this is why teams have these big stadiums: to fill them. But obviously with a season-ticket base of 55,000 to 60,000 but a single game capacity of only 10,000 to 20,000 pleasing everyone just isn’t possible.

“We have thousands of season ticket members who haven’t missed a game in four decades, and it sucks,” Rovak said.

The reality of the situation is that if chosen, this isn’t really a golden ticket. Rovak said he and his team are trying to be as honest as possible with game-attending fans about what their expectation could be if chosen to attend games. There’s a certain responsibility a fan has to keep others safe, as well.

“Coming to a football game this year — in September — is going to be very different,” Rovak said. “It’s going to be: You have a mask, nobody is sitting next to you, we are not going to encourage those social spaces, there’s not going to be a big pregame show, there isn’t going to be access on the field. You’re going to have to come, and you’re going to have to really like football. … To some people, that’s awesome. To other people, like my wife, it’s not.”

From a business model standpoint, Rovak believes even with the unfortunate short-term effects of the pandemic that the long term plans won’t be much impacted and that every decision made was with the fans in mind. He hopes that comes across.

“This should set us up to be in a really good place in 2021,” he said. “Listen, none of us want to deal with limiting capacity in 2020; we much prefer selling out the full venue, but at the same time it allows us to focus on the servicing of our fans now but also I think having a long-term retention because we expect to get a pent up demand for next year.”

 

 

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As a Arizonan with tickets to the Oct. 11th game against Carolina this is my biggest question.  If they allow limited seating, who gets in?  If there is no fans that makes it a bit easier, but who decides who gets in and who doesn't?  I see the blurb about the survey, but that looks like for PSL's?

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30 minutes ago, athell said:

As a Arizonan with tickets to the Oct. 11th game against Carolina this is my biggest question.  If they allow limited seating, who gets in?  If there is no fans that makes it a bit easier, but who decides who gets in and who doesn't?  I see the blurb about the survey, but that looks like for PSL's?

The 40k PSL crowd is definitely getting in. 

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1 hour ago, Goober Pyle said:

His sons, who are 12 and 14 years old, like their space.

“Usually the biggest gripe for them is someone tall sitting in front of them,” said Rovak, who is the vice president of ticket sales and services for the Falcons.

VP of ticket sales has trouble finding good seats for his kids? 

:huh:

 

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8 minutes ago, MAD597 said:

Insane, no way in he'll you can social distance with 20k people in the stands. 

Each game is going to be a covid hotspot and covid super spreader scenario.

They are nuts if they think this is going to work.

They don't necessarily 'think this is going to work'.  

They're just saying they have a plan,  so later when the season doesn't even happen (or most likely happens with 0 fans) they can say,  'Well, at least we had a plan'.   

It's all about optics.  The appearance of having control over a situation that's impossible to control.  

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20 minutes ago, octoslash said:

They don't necessarily 'think this is going to work'.  

They're just saying they have a plan,  so later when the season doesn't even happen (or most likely happens with 0 fans) they can say,  'Well, at least we had a plan'.   

It's all about optics.  The appearance of having control over a situation that's impossible to control.  

They don't necessarily think it's not going to work either.

You can't just go into the future without a plan, as crazy as it may seem in the moment.  I don't think it's about control, I think it's about putting your best effort forth to move forward with a season that no one wants to see cancelled.

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2 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

New Falcons beat writer for The Athletic

 

https://theathletic.com/1944948/2020/07/22/how-the-falcons-are-planning-for-limited-seating-at-games-in-2020/?source=emp_shared_article

 

Don Rovak said when his family of four goes to Falcons games during the season, it can be split into two demographics of game-goers. His sons, who are 12 and 14 years old, like their space.

“Usually the biggest gripe for them is someone tall sitting in front of them,” said Rovak, who is the vice president of ticket sales and services for the Falcons.

But his wife falls into another category. Like many others, games are social events for her. She’s there to have a drink with some friends or to chat up a stranger or two. It’s a chance to get to know more people, to high-five the person sitting next to her in the excitement of the moment. Rovak said if he were to take her to a game in 2020, it probably wouldn’t be a fun experience for her as it had been in the past. Simply speaking, all the things that draw her to a game, “that’s not going to exist,” Rovak said.

As of the third full week in July, Rovak, his team and all of the Falcons’ organization are planning on having limited capacity seating during the season. It’s important to note that this is the plan right now. During a pandemic, time has had a way of changing plans, so the Falcons’ plan very well could change at any point prior to the season starting or even once it does. But the Falcons are hopeful they’re doing right by fans with the plan they have currently set up.

Last week, an outline of that plan was sent to Falcons’ PSL and season ticket holders.

“I think the big positives are if anybody missed a PSL payment this past year or has an upcoming PSL payment for next year and they want to extend that financial agreement to the backend of their deal they can do so,” Rovak said. “So, basically, we will only be collecting one of the PSL payments over the course of the two years. Another benefit that we communicated was for anybody who is keeping their money on the account and moving their money towards next year, they would get a price freeze for 2021.”

He said in a normal year, that would be an average deal, but it could be a bigger deal next year with the NFL expanding to a 17-game regular season with the potential for a ninth home game in 2021.

But looking specifically to the 2020 season, Rovak explained the next steps the organization is planning on taking will give the group a better understanding of what it will really be undertaking once the season begins with limited fan seating for games. Beginning on Wednesday, PSL and season ticket holders will receive a survey to fill out regarding their interest in attending the first four home games of the season. If they do wish to attend games, they will rank, in order, their preferences for which games they would like to attend. For reference, the first four home games of the season are against Seattle, Chicago, Carolina and Detroit.

Capacity will be limited to between 10,000 and 20,000 fans, which Rovak said is around 20 percent of the seats that can be used in the stadium. He said the operations team has been walking Mercedes-Benz Stadium to figure out exactly how many seats can be accommodated. What it has decided on is an almost checker-board-like seating. So, if you take the 70,000 seat venue, there will be pods of seat sizes ranging from one single seat to a group of six seats together spread out across the stadium.

These pods will be designated with different price categories, so when PSL or season ticket holders are chosen for one of those first four games, they will have to select seats within their price category.

So, who will be chosen for which games and how many games of those first four will a single PSL or season ticket member be allowed access to? Rovak said the team is hoping the surveys can help answer that question, but the organization is currently projecting that most season-ticket holders will be able to go to one, maybe two, of those first four home games.

When asked which way he felt fans are leaning between not feeling comfortable to go to games vs. being absolutely willing to go, Rovak said he thinks there will be more fans upset they didn’t get chosen to go to one of those first four home games than the ones upset that they have to opt out completely on their own accord.

“That’s my personal belief because I just think when I picture who I am going to be hearing from more, we are going to be hearing from fans that have been going to games for 20 years and now, ‘You’re only allowing me to go to one game in the next two months? That’s ridiculous,'” Rovak said. “I think we are going to hear from that guy a lot. And I feel for that guy. It pains me.”

Rovak said this is why teams have these big stadiums: to fill them. But obviously with a season-ticket base of 55,000 to 60,000 but a single game capacity of only 10,000 to 20,000 pleasing everyone just isn’t possible.

“We have thousands of season ticket members who haven’t missed a game in four decades, and it sucks,” Rovak said.

The reality of the situation is that if chosen, this isn’t really a golden ticket. Rovak said he and his team are trying to be as honest as possible with game-attending fans about what their expectation could be if chosen to attend games. There’s a certain responsibility a fan has to keep others safe, as well.

“Coming to a football game this year — in September — is going to be very different,” Rovak said. “It’s going to be: You have a mask, nobody is sitting next to you, we are not going to encourage those social spaces, there’s not going to be a big pregame show, there isn’t going to be access on the field. You’re going to have to come, and you’re going to have to really like football. … To some people, that’s awesome. To other people, like my wife, it’s not.”

From a business model standpoint, Rovak believes even with the unfortunate short-term effects of the pandemic that the long term plans won’t be much impacted and that every decision made was with the fans in mind. He hopes that comes across.

“This should set us up to be in a really good place in 2021,” he said. “Listen, none of us want to deal with limiting capacity in 2020; we much prefer selling out the full venue, but at the same time it allows us to focus on the servicing of our fans now but also I think having a long-term retention because we expect to get a pent up demand for next year.”

 

 

So, 10k to 20k fans... so no difference from last year.

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7 hours ago, octoslash said:

They don't necessarily 'think this is going to work'.  

They're just saying they have a plan,  so later when the season doesn't even happen (or most likely happens with 0 fans) they can say,  'Well, at least we had a plan'.   

It's all about optics.  The appearance of having control over a situation that's impossible to control.  

yep there is a lot of unknown obviously..  it will be interesting to see if we get any real clarity in august.. i doubt it. 

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1 hour ago, stizz said:

I know they let that Jason Butt guy go, but I thought it was due to the pandemic. Interesting they hired someone else so soon.

Reading an earlier article announcing her move to cover the Falcons, she mentioned that she has been the Georgia Tech beat reporter and they are moving her to the Falcons. I just wonder if it’s salary related as she said she’s only a couple of years out of college. 

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The sad part for PSL owners is the PSL is actually a 30 year lease on the rights to buy the seat/tickets.  The payment options were all upfront or over 10 years for the PSL.  Even if being allowed to delay one year of payment by a year, this results in a 11 year payment scheme whereby you pay 10 out of 11 years but the PSL is still only good for 30 years.

Long story short, for all those who said the PSLs were a good “investment”, you now are going to receive rights to buy 29 seasons worth of tickets vs the original planned 30 seasons worth...all for the discounted price of the SAME amount of original PSL price.  One winner in this equation and it isn’t you.

Furthermore, if natural disaster renders MBS useless(EQ, tornado, etc.) PSL owners have no recoupment mechanism for PSL money paid while Arthur collects on insurance for value of stadium and then builds another new one and sells brand new PSLs again.  
 

Read your contracts, PSLs are fools gold.

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23 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

Reading an earlier article announcing her move to cover the Falcons, she mentioned that she has been the Georgia Tech beat reporter and they are moving her to the Falcons. I just wonder if it’s salary related as she said she’s only a couple of years out of college. 

Great point. As someone in media, you're right on about the salary. I won't try and count pockets but I can guarantee she's being overworked for no more than 40K. I guess that's the trade off for recent grads though for the expereince.

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From what I read in the STH email, almost seems like if you opt to go to games this year, they will draw names for game tickets. So it’s a lottery. Any game you don’t get to attend will be a credit towards next year STs. If you opt not to attend this year you can either get a full credit towards next year, locking in ticket prices at the current price or opt for a refund. I will be opting to take a credit towards next years games. I don’t feel like being at a game and made to wear a mask. So I will stay home and watch it on tv

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