STEP in 2011
In 2011, rumblings first surfaced of declining attendance at Beaver Stadium — the second-largest on-campus stadium in the nation — when the first crowd short of 100,000 since 2001 walked through the gates.
Even then-coach Joe Paterno noticed, commenting on the smaller crowds during a Big Ten coaches teleconference, according to NittanyExtra.com. He blamed the 2011-implemented STEP guidelines.
“The economy is not great,” Paterno said. “It might not have been the best time to raise the prices on some of our seats, but we did. It probably had a bearing on it.”
STEP was put in place in order to “generate additional revenue in order to maintain its status as a self-supporting budgetary unit of the university. Left alone, Athletic Department expenses are projected to exceed revenues within the time frame of the current 10-year financial plan,” according to the Penn State Athletic Department website, which has a section dedicated to STEP.
The program, which aimed to “more fairly allocate season tickets in a way that properly reflects and rewards the generosity of our donors,” upped the required donation for many season ticket-holders — not including the price of the tickets or parking passes.
“I am a grad student in Philly and it just costs too much,” Robert Dougherty told StateCollege.com after dropping his tickets. “There were enough empty seats last year that I could always go up for a game or two a year. I probably saved $2,500 by not paying the STEP license and purchasing season tickets.”
Costs are a battle for schools around the nation, which are facing high-definition television broadcasts for interest, TIME Magazine reported.
“Rising prices and the ease of purchasing tickets at the last minute on the secondary market — many times for below face value — are often named as explanations for declining interest in season tickets,” the magazine reported. “But probably what hurts ticket sales the most is how the in-stadium experience compares to in-living-room viewing.”