When considering the potential revenues that games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium could bring, Georgia Tech athletic-department officials had a seemingly simple decision to go ahead with the five-game series that begins in 2020.
Athletic director Todd Stansbury and coach Geoff Collins are counting on other benefits from the series, which will include two games against Notre Dame (2020 and 2024), one against Clemson (2022) and two more against other ACC opponents (2021 and 2023). They include the ability to offer recruits the chance to play in a state-of-the-art NFL stadium and providing Yellow Jackets fans opportunities to see their team play in the opulent venue.
The financial boost, though, is considerable. The athletic department estimates that the five games will generate $10 million more in revenue than if the games were to be held at Bobby Dodd Stadium, according to documents obtained in an open-records request. Moreover, the projection is based off of conservative ticket-sales figures.
“It’s positive,” said Marvin Lewis, associate AD for finance and administration. “Very positive.”
The lift is of no small value to the athletic department, which is in dire need of cash to support its 17 varsity sports against more moneyed ACC members. This fiscal year, for instance, the department anticipates running a $9.5 million deficit — $80.1 million in revenues, $89.6 million in expenses. That shortfall, caused partly by the $6 million transition from Paul Johnson to Collins, will entirely deplete the department’s reserve fund.
Other details in the requested documents, including the contract with the Peach Bowl for the 2022 Chick-fil-A Kickoff game in against Clemson and a memorandum of understanding with AMB Sports & Entertainment for rental of Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the other four games in the series, and from an interview with Lewis and deputy AD Mark Rountree:
» Tech will receive a $5 million payout for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game and will be obligated to sell or purchase 38,016 tickets in the 71,000-seat stadium. As the visiting team, Clemson will receive 4,300 tickets, the standard for ACC games. The Peach Bowl has control of the remaining tickets, although Tech (and Clemson) may request additional tickets.
The $5 million payday is $3 million more than Tech would expect to make at a game at Bobby Dodd.
» For the two ACC games — Tech is at home against North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech in both 2021 and 2023, along with Boston College in 2021 and Louisville in 2023 — Tech is planning to use only the lower bowl, which has a capacity of 45,000. (The rent for that configuration is $500,000 in 2021, compared with $1.1 million in 2020 for the full stadium for the first Notre Dame game.)
The athletic department could rent the entire stadium for either of those two games if it deems it profitable, Rountree said.
» Tech estimated a profit of $4.4 million for each for the two Notre Dame games — well ahead of the $2 million it would expect to make at Bobby Dodd — and that was using a low-end estimate of 54,000 tickets sold. Selling out the building could be worth an additional $1.2 million.
“Obviously, we hope to sell out the whole building,” he said.
» Notre Dame will receive a 5,000-ticket allotment as part of its football agreement with the ACC. Falcons fans holding personal seat licenses for suites and club seats have first right to buy their seats for those games, but Tech will have control of the remainder (as well as seats unpurchased by the PSL holders) to sell to its season-ticket holders.
The ticket prices set out in the contract for the kickoff game will be slightly higher on the whole than they were for Tech’s 2017 kickoff game against Tennessee, not a surprise given that it will be five years down the road. For instance, for the Tennessee game, upper-sideline seats were $90, lower-level sideline seats for $130 and lower club seats were $205. For the Clemson game, the same seats will be $100, $150 and $250, respectively.
» The chart estimating revenues for the Notre Dame game used the same prices as the Clemson game, although ticket prices for the four games in which Tech will rent the stadium have not been set.
» Alcohol will be sold at all five games.
» And, perhaps for some fans, the crucial detail — for the Clemson game, Tech will wear white and Clemson will wear orange.