‘West Club’ to open in UB Stadium
Athletics aims to upgrade football experience with premium seating, other amenities
In 2013, UB Athletics unveiled plans for the East Club, a 1,600-seat amenity in UB Stadium that would offer fans a comfortable, luxurious setting to watch games – but that won’t be exactly what fans get this coming football season.
The athletic department will have a newly renovated premium seating area for the 2015 football season – but with 1,200 fewer seats and on the opposite side of the stadium.
UB Athletics recently announced the West Club, which is planned to open in August in time for the start of the Bulls’ season. The 400-seat section on the west side of the stadium will include an enclosed club private concourse, outside club seating, food and beverage service, private elevator access, premium parking and personalized seating.
In order to become a season ticket holder in the West Club, fans must make a $1,000 minimum donation to the Blue and White Fund. The project will cost about $700,000 to $900,000, according to Associate Athletic Director of Development Eric Gross. Gross said the renovations will start soon and will be made to the current suites on the west side, which straddles the 20-yard line on the 200 level of UB Stadium.
“This is a major upgrade for our football venue, competition venue and ultimately the fan experience,” Gross said. “We see the Jim Kelly Club at Ralph Wilson Stadium – luxury … Being able to purchase food and beverages in a private, climate controlled concourse. We wanted to bring that at a smaller scale to UB Stadium.”
Gross said UB Athletics still plans to eventually build the larger East Club. The East Club was originally set to hold 1,600 people in a brand new amenity on the east side, but UB Athletics received just over 300 potential donors for the project. Falling short of its goal, Athletics decided to create the West Club, creating a new complex based on demand.
“The East Club is a bold vision for our future, a vision that we would like to see become a reality as we gain increase in season ticket sales,” Gross said. “The West Club is not a downgrade, despite the number change. We’re going to be building something great and for the demand we outsourced.”
UB Athletics decided to go with a West Club over an East Club for the 2015 season because the structure was already in place. The current suites on the west side of the stadium will be renovated and the walls of the existing suites will be knocked down to add new accommodations such as larger, premium seating and televisions to watch the game.
Gross said the money for the project came solely from donations.
“We came out with the East Club and asked people to commit,” Gross said. “We didn’t ask for money up front, but rather, asked for a pledge, saying, ‘Would you commit if we build this amenity?’ That was instrumental in the design of the West Club.”
The West Club will feature loge seating, both indoor and outdoor. The indoor seating will cost $1,325 per seat – $125 for the season ticket and $1,200 for the donation. The Club seating, which is outdoors, is $1,125 per seat – $125 for season tickets and $1,000 for the donation.
UB Athletics expects the West Club to offer fans and students another way to experience UB Athletics, but is also expected to help the program in return.
Gross said the revenue would help Buffalo build a new indoor athletic facility.
“It’s a venue for fans, but it’s also a new source for revenue,” Gross said. “What’s significant is that we’ve been lacking this resource for a long time … We’re going to take the money we receive from donors and place them towards a field house. That’s important for the success of the West Club.”
Schools throughout the Mid-American Conference have used premium club seating to offer a better game experience and used the money in order to help facilities. Buffalo is currently the only program is the MAC without a field house or currently constructing one.
Ohio University implemented the Ohio Bobcat Club, where donors can donate up to $10,000 to receive tickets and premium seating to football and basketball games. Miami Ohio offers the Red and White Club, in which donors can donate up to $10,000 to receive premium seating and valet parking and multiple awards including a trip to an away game and a tour from Athletic Director David Sayler.
Both schools used their added revenue from the clubs to help their respective programs. In 2014, Ohio built the Walter Fieldhouse, a 93,750-square foot multi-purpose building used for football, track and field, golf and baseball. The $12.5 million facility was built in response to a surplus of revenue accumulated by respective clubs among other donations. In the same year, Miami Ohio spent $20 million on renovations to its current buildings for their hockey and baseball programs and broke ground on an indoor training facility near Yager Stadium.
While the field house project is currently “to be determined” in terms of location and beginning of construction, Athletics officials would like to build it in the near future. The field house would offer an indoor training facility for sports such as football, track, softball, baseball and soccer. The Bulls currently travel to the Buffalo Bills’ field house, the ADPRO Sports Complex, in Orchard Park, New York.
Athletics officials say the West Club will be completed for the 2015-16 season. The Bulls’ first home game is against Albany on Sept. 5.
Quentin Haynes is the sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com