Minium: Priority Automotive Club is Sold Out and Has Generated Millions of Dollars for S.B. Ballard Stadium

March 08, 2019
By ODU Athletics
ODU Athletics

By Harry Minium

When Old Dominion University originally proposed tearing down most of its football stadium and replacing it with a new facility, high-end premium seating wasn’t included in the original $55 million budget.

Even when the cost for the new S.B. Ballard Stadium ballooned to $65 million, largely because of inflation, no new luxury seating was planned.

But about a year ago, President John R. Broderick, Greg DuBois, ODU’s vice president for administration and finance, athletic director Wood Selig and Old Dominion Athletic Foundation officials put their heads together to figure out how to generate more revenue.

They agreed to ask the state for permission to add a $2.5 million. 5,000 square foot club on the west side that would accommodate 388 people. It would be paid for with private funds.

It was a bit of a gamble. Officials from ODAF, the University’s athletic fundraising organization, seemed confident they could sell out the tickets.

But no one knew for sure.

They set May 1 as a deadline to acquire naming rights and sell all the tickets.

A rendering of the Priority Automotive Club.

And nearly two months before the deadlinel they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The club has generated at least $4 million in new private donations to help fund the stadium. And the last of the tickets sold out in early March, said Jena Virga, senior associate athletic director for the foundation.

ODAF officials say that all 388 tickets were sold at $7,500 for four-ticket blocks. Ticket sales will generate more than $500,000 per year after expenses, said Drew Turner, associate athletic director for development.

None of that money would have been available had it not been for the foresight of Broderick, DuBois and Selig.

Here’s how the numbers work:

  • Norfolk native and ODU alumnus Dennis Ellmer, who founded the Priority Automotive a chain of car dealerships , donated $1.5 million for naming rights for what will be known as the Priority Automotive Club. 
  • Club seat ticket sales will generate about $700,000 per year. Expenses are not yet fully known, but Turner said ODU will net a minimum of $500,000 per year.
  • In addition, all 97 people who bought tickets were asked, but not required, to make additional donations to the stadium effort. Donations began at $25,000 but some were much larger. But even if the 97 people donated just $25,000, that would generate nearly $2.5 million in new revenue.

Selig said that when he approached Broderick with the proposal, he was confident it would be successful.

“As we discussed the new stadium conceptually throughout the region and local community, we were inundated with requests for premium sideline seating, whether it be additional suites or even a stadium club area,” he said.

“It became tremendously obvious that there was a significant amount of interest and demand for such areas and our initial design was flawed in that regard. Let’s face it, today’s world of in-person sports consumption revolves around amenities and experience.

“While the new stadium will enhance everyone’s experience, we had failed to accommodate those seeking a premium watching experience. Fortunately, we were able, with the assistance of President Broderick and Greg DuBois and others, to correct this omission.

“If not for President Broderick’s decision to allow this proposal to become reality, we would be missing out on millions of dollars in revenue to help pay for the stadium. He deserves a lot of credit for his leadership throughout this process. None of this would have been possible without President Broderick.”

The new S.B. Ballard Stadium will seat 21,895, with 15,932 seats on the sidelines, all with chair back or bench back seats. They will be wider and provide far more leg room than the seating at old Foreman Field.

Athletic director Wood Selig (left) is pictured with Kate and John Broderick, President Broderick and Selig played key roles in adding luxury seating to S.B. Ballard Stadium. 

There will also be new concessions stands and nearly twice the number of toilets in modern concessions stamds.

S.B. Ballard Construction is doing the $67.5 million renovation. In less than four months, Ballard has completed stadium demolition, driven 675 piles, poured the foundation and began erecting the new stadium. The east and west sides were demolished. Seats in the north end zone and luxury seating in the south end zone are not being renovated.

One of two 95-foot towers on the west side was recently completed, and Ballard has begun erecting the steel what will hold the stadium’s new seats.

The stadium will open Aug. 31 when the Monarchs host Norfolk State.

The Priority Automotive Club will be on top of the stadium’s first level. Fans will be able to walk out the front of the facility to their seats, all between the 45-yard lines.

In will include an all-you-can-eat buffet and a cash bar.

At

As the project was being designed, ODAF officials told Stephen Ballard that they wanted it to have a luxurious feel.

“We want it to feel like a high-end sports bar,” Turner said. “The fact that we sold out of tickets by early March indicates there is a lot of community support for the stadium project and for ODU football.”

Turner said ODU made club tickets available first to major donors. But through networking, the University found buyers who had never donated to ODU before.

“Getting new people involved in ODU athletics is great,” he said. “It expands our donor base. That’s something we have to do.

“None of this would have been possible without this new club.”

Contact Minium: hminium@odu.edu

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