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March 14, 2012

Lane Stadium reseating process set to start April 17

By: Jimmy Robertson

The brochure announcing the Lane Stadium reseating plan and explaining it in great detail has been mailed. The Dec. 31 deadline for upgrading contributions to the Hokie Club has passed. So, too, has the March 2 deadline for returning season ticket renewal applications.

All that essentially remains is having Tech fans select their seats.

The actual process for that begins on April 17, as the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund – better known to many as the Hokie Club – and the athletics department’s ticket office oversee a process in which all Hokie Club members and season ticket holders will choose seats based on the Hokie Club’s “ladder.”

This ladder, which the Hokie Club used as the guide for the reseating process in 2005, recognizes a combination of giving and continuous years of purchasing season tickets. Those who have been a continuous season ticket purchaser since 1966 take the top spot on the ladder and actually retain their seats. But contributors who rank as Benefactors, Century Champions, Golden Champions, Diamond and Platinum Hokies will get first choice of seats. Then, those who have purchased season tickets continuously between 42 and 45 years are next, followed by Golden Hokies and so forth.

The process differs from the one in 2005, however, in that contributors and season ticket holders will be using an online system to choose seats and parking spots (for those who qualify). Those on steps No. 2-4 on the ladder have the option of selecting seats through the online process, but also by telephone with a Hokie Club or ticket office representative, or in person at Lane Stadium.

But everyone else will be using the online system or selecting via the phone with a Hokie Club or ticket office rep. The Hokie Club will be mailing a “how-to” guide to contributors on how to use this relatively simple system.

“That guide will have step-by-step instructions and a link to a ‘dummy’ website that will allow people to go into it and familiarize themselves with the system,” said Scott Davis, an associate director of development for intercollegiate athletics “They’ll be getting that guide around mid-March.

“Then, in the first week of April, we’ll be sending out a letter that informs people of their selection times. We set those times, and we think most people, once they familiarize themselves with the system, will choose the online route.”

The Hokie Club chose a system created by Ballena Technologies, a California-based company with significant expertise in seating and ticketing technologies. In fact, numerous college and professional sports teams use Ballena’s technology, including the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, the MLB’s San Francisco Giants, the Cotton and Fiesta Bowls, and Daytona International Speedway.

The Hokie Club picked Ballena because of its work with ACC brethren such as Virginia, North Carolina, Clemson and Wake Forest – all of whom have reseated their stadiums recently. Davis, David Everett, the director of major gifts for intercollegiate athletics, and Sandy Smith, Tech’s assistant AD for ticketing services, all traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C., and met with officials at North Carolina about their reseating process. Everett also met with counterparts at Virginia about the same subject. All came back to Blacksburg impressed with Ballena.

“The two big differences this time from when we did this in 2005 are the online technology and that parking is part of the process this time around,” Everett said. “But we feel the online technology is going to be a positive for our supporters. It allows for transparency, and from what we’ve learned from other schools, more than 70 percent of their contributors decided to use the online process.”

In addition to speed and convenience, another advantage of using the online system is finding what seats in certain sections could be available. If a person’s selection time is at 2 p.m., then he or she could log in at 1 p.m. to check seat availability. He or she will not be able to choose any seats until the 2 p.m. selection time, but at least will have an idea of what seats may be available.

The system also allows for group seating – a common question among Hokie Club members. In the past, groups had to mail in the hard copies of their orders together, and then the ticket office tried to accommodate the group’s wishes as best it could. Now, group requests can be done online at the selection time of the lowest member on the ladder. At that time, each group member can log into the online system and choose seats and/or parking together.

“A member of each group has to be on the computer and logged into the system,” Davis said. “They have to be able to communicate and coordinate that, but the system does allow for the handling of group requests.”

Hokie Club and ticket office personnel will be available to help those unfamiliar with computers or struggling with the system. They also understand that emergencies arise, and people may not be able to choose during their selection times.

To protect folks in these specific situations, a representative who is monitoring the system will call the customer and try to reach him or her if a selection hasn’t been made within 30 minutes of the scheduled selection time. That representative will try calling for up to an hour, and then once the hour expires, a member of the reseating staff – a Hokie Club representative like Davis or Everett or a ticket office representative – will select that person’s seats and parking.

“We’ll pick seats and parking as close as possible to what that person had last year,” Davis said. “We understand that things come up sometimes that can’t be avoided, and in those situations, we want to protect that person’s priority.”

Supporters will be limited to selecting seats “in priority.” For example, Benefactors, Century Champion, Golden Champion, Diamond and Platinum Hokies are limited to six tickets in priority, but may have purchased additional season tickets. In the reseating process, they get to choose six seats during their first selection time, and then once all ticket holders within the ladder have selected their seats, a second selection time will be appointed to select seats for those with tickets outside of the priority limit. The ladder will be used again to determine these particular selection times.

The Hokie Club figures that the entire selection process will run well into June, and then tickets and parking passes will be mailed in early August, as in past years.

“The appointment times are going to be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week, with the exception of April 20,” Everett said. “That’s the day before the spring game, and there’s just so much going on that day that we’ve decided not to schedule any appointment times.

“We’re doing every thing we can to make this process easier for everyone. We think the online system does that, but we’re also willing to answer any questions anyone may have and to help in any way that we can. That’s what we’re here for, and we encourage anyone with questions or issues to please contact us and let us help.”