SBJ/June 6-12, 2011/Colleges

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  • IMG College reaches deal to provide cushioned seats at Notre Dame, Michigan stadiums

    The hard wood and metal bleacher seats inside the football stadiums at Michigan and Notre Dame are about to get a little softer for season-ticket holders.

    Those schools have struck a deal with IMG College to install cushioned seats for those ticket holders who buy the seating plan. For $32, fans can have a temporary cushioned seat installed at their assigned seat for the season.

    IMG COLLEGE
    For $32, fans can have a cushioned seat installed at their assigned bench seat for the season.
    IMG College and its school clients share the revenue from these seat sales, and the schools do not incur any of the installation costs.

    Rented cushioned seats are nothing new. Childhood buddies John Hite, Franklin Yancey and Jed Hurt founded College Comfort in 1999 with Virginia Tech and East Carolina as its first two clients. ISP Sports bought the business in 2008. When IMG College bought ISP last year, the rented seat business became a division within IMG College.

    The stadium seating division now has 50 school clients, but not many of them have the history within their stadiums that Notre Dame and Michigan possess. That’s why the sales cycle was a little longer and the buying process more meticulous than normal.

    “Both schools are very protective of their stadiums and understandably so,” Yancey said.

    The Irish and Wolverines don’t permit advertising within their stadiums on football game days and they’re careful about letting any outside entities bring their business through the gate. But Notre Dame and Michigan also have multimedia deals with IMG College, which didn’t hurt, although the rented seating division does business with schools outside of the IMG College network as well.

    Schools such as Florida State and South Carolina have even sold advertising on the seat cushions. That won’t be happening at Michigan and Notre Dame, where the schools took painstaking efforts to make sure their rented seats will blend into the stadium.

    For the seats at Michigan Stadium located within the painted blue and yellow block “M,” the rented seat must match the color of the bleachers. At Notre Dame, the rented cushions mostly will be gold.

    The cushions will be marketed through season-ticket renewals at Michigan and through direct mail at Notre Dame.

    The seating space for each ticket is 16 inches to 17 inches across and 9 inches deep at the stadiums, which is fairly small compared with most, so IMG College had to convince the schools that their seats could fit across a row without overlap.

    Because of how tight the seats are, IMG will be selling just the seat cushion and not the chairback model, which is available at many other schools that have more spacious stadium seating.

    “It took several different demonstrations, but we were able to show how the row could take all of those seats,” Hite said. “When you look at what’s happening at stadiums these days, not many of them allow you to bring in anything. So this enables the schools to offer an amenity to fans, and the seats are there through the season.”

    The cushions will be available only to season-ticket holders at Michigan. At Notre Dame, cushions also will be sold individually on game days, in addition to those sold in advance to ticket holders.

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