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Gampel vs. XL Center: Some Thoughts

There have been a lot of comments, both within and below featured articles, regarding the XL center. All of them have been about the worthlessness of the XL, about persuading Manuel to put all the games in Storrs, or about finally putting The Morgue…well, out to pasture.

As a fan, I hate the XL. But if we’re going to discuss this is any sort of rational way, we have to understand all the pro’s and con’s that go into a decision like XL vs. Gampel. There hasn’t been any recognition of what the University and its fans get out of the XL. So the question is, what benefits does the XL Center bring, and do they outweigh the costs of giving up Gampel games?

I want to talk about the two primary benefits to having games at the XL Center:

1. Exposure:

Uconn is meant to be more than an institution that serves only its students. As the state’s flagship university, it is meant to improve the lives of all Connecticut citizens through scientific research, social and cultural events, and yes, even recreation and athletics. As a result, it has a direct responsibility to be as accessible as possible. Given the unique nature of sports in Connecticut – no professional sports teams (except the top selling Whalers) of its own and the allegiance of its citizens evenly split between New York and Boston teams – a centralized location that caters to the only unified fan base in the State is extremely important. It keeps donations rolling in (this is a similar reason as to why Herbst had the school purchase a mansion in West Hartford and why Uconn is experimenting with games at Mohegan Sun or in Bridgeport– to court donors on their turf, not on ours and increase state-wide accessibility), the Uconn name front and center, and offers the other ¾ of the State that can’t drive to Storrs an opportunity to engage in fandom.

2. Money

I looked long and hard for a breakdown of basketball revenue by home-location, but I couldn’t find it. So I used publicly available resources to create the following data set:

This is breakdown of attendance for the 2012-2013 season, according to box scores, by home-location.

Opponent

Attendance

Location

PC

10167

Gampel

Georgetown

10167

Gampel

Cincy

11131

XL

Nova

15165

XL

Cuse Sucks

13518

XL

USF

9205

Gampel

Rutgers

12768

XL

Louisville

14287

XL

DePaul

9156

Gampel

Washington

12,720

XL

Fordham

10265

XL

Maryland ES

8841

XL

Harvard

9113

Gampel

New Hampshire

8705

XL

Stony Brook

8474

Gampel

Vermont

7962

Gampel

Total:

171644

Some take-aways: Over the course of the season, XL over 40,000 more people than Gampel, and averaged 2,755 more people per game. This is almost $83,000 more per game in net revenue for XL games, assuming an average ticket price of $30.

But wait, doesn’t Uconn have to rent the XL Center? Why yes it does! To the tune of $50,000 per game. What about concessions? Per this article, Uconn does not keep any concession money from Hartford games.

In total, this means that over the course of a season, Uconn still nets almost $300,000 more from games at Hartford than those at Gampel.

Total Gampel Attendance:

64244

Total XL Attendance:

107400

Average Gampel Attendance:

9177.71429

Average XL Attendance:

11933.3333

Difference per game:

2755.61905

Revenue Difference per game:

(Assume 30/ ticket)

82668.5714

Cost Difference per game:

50000

Total Income Increase Per Game for using XL

32668.5714

Over 9 games:

294017.143

The story gets a little more complicated when factoring in concessions at Gampel (only $36,488/year), as well as facilities cost for running Gampel (I left this out because I got some really funky numbers – by my calculations it costs significantly more to run/upkeep Gampel than it does to rent the XL, which in some ways makes sense but in others was troubling enough that I didn’t include it in the analysis. See evidence below).

A few things to keep in mind that further complicate this is that I assume Hartford is responsible for the bulk of advertising revenue, as it reaches more people, a better demographic, and in a better location. Break down of advertising is really difficult without submitting an FOIA for Uconn’s contracts.

The truth is that the XL Center significantly helps drive Uconn’s profits from basketball.

Final Thoughts:

I don’t think people always grasp the difference in attendance, even when the XL Center looks empty. To put this in perspective, less people saw the marquee matchup of Uconn – Georgetown in Gampel than saw the why-even-bother matchup of Uconn-Fordham at the XL.

This means that Uconn has to balance the concerns of home-field advantage (significantly better at Gampel) and its obligations to students with the significant fiscal advantage and obligations to the rest of the State population of XL. Do we want a team that is less funded, receives fewer donations and might ultimately be less competitive? Or are we willing to accept a schedule that embraces all of Connecticut, brings in more money, but tends to alienate students and hardcore fans?

Until Gampel is renovated with significantly more seats (or luxury boxes, or some other revenue-per-game increase), Hartford is without a doubt a decent (although not great) option to fulfill some of the University’s state-wide obligations while bringing in more money. Once Gampel is renovated or rebuilt, than I think this is a more serious discussion worth having. Until then, we may have to be unhappy with XL to be happy with the State of the program. At the very least, the picture may be more complicated than it appears.

Sources:

Connecticut OLR Documents (primary):

"Uconn Men’s Basketball Program," OLR Research Report 2009-R-0129, by Rute Pinho.

"Uconn Basketball Tickets," OLR Research Report, 1995 95-R-1641, by D'Ann Mazzocca

Other links:

http://theday.com/article/20130209/SPORT01/302099974

http://www.ctpost.com/uconn/article/UConn-data-shows-football-two-basketball-2405962.php

http://articles.courant.com/2011-12-15/sports/hc-uconn-finances-1215-2-20111215_1_fbs-football-programs-eada-fiesta-bowl

http://web.uconn.edu/paac/faq.html

Also: DEAR LORD, WE HAVE THE BEST 3PT SHOOTER IN THE NATION!: http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/stats/leaders/NCAAB/TPPCT/regularseason/yearly

Weird Data on Facilities Cost:

But the picture is slightly more complicated. If we assume that Uconn makes no money on concessions and beer at the XL (per this article), then the benefit of Gampel is increased. According to these numbers, Uconn makes 36,488 in concessions all year.

Concessions at Gampel, per year

36,488

Operating Costs at Gampel: If we assume 50k a game to rent XL, at 9 games, it costs (50,000*9 =) 450,000 to operate XL for a season. Operating expenses for facilities and renting for the 2012-2013 season (here) were 1,083,832.This makes operating at Gampel equal to: (1,083,832 - 450000) / 7 = 90547.4386 a game?

Debate is welcome! Did I mess up somewhere? Let me know!

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