Florida Atlantic Seating A Shore Thing

Conference USA school selling eight field-level cabanas after test this season

  • by Don Muret
  • Published: December 11, 2018

Florida Atlantic University is bringing a touch of South Beach to college football on campus. For the 2019 season, the Boca Raton school plans to build eight premium cabanas behind the south end zone at FAU Stadium.

The field-level cabanas, priced at $12,500 a season, come with 12 game tickets and four parking passes. FAU officials are still determining the exact amenities, but the cabanas will most likely include a television and a ceiling fan, said Michael Graffin, the school's athletic director of development.  Food and drink is a separate fee.

FAU is selling the inventory in one-year and five-year agreements, Graffin, said.

The school installed a test model stocked with food and drink for the final two regular-season home games and invited its biggest donors to experience the cabana for one quarter of play. As of mid-December, two deals were signed and officials were in discussions to sell three more units, Graffin said.

“Being in South Florida, we try to create a different experience,” he said. “We have suites and loges, but both of those are farther back from the field. We’re still deciding what we’re going to do to execute it and the amenities.”

Graffin said, “The toughest part is making that experience in the end zone [compelling] for the whole game, and that’s where the live TV feed comes in, especially for people that really care about FAU and are not just there for the party.”

Cabanas are not new in college football and some schools and bowl games have experimented with end zone hospitality units extending to shipping container retrofits and tiny homes.

In 2017, the University of Central Florida introduced cabanas in both end zones at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando that sold for $22,000 a season. UCF Athletic Director Danny White and FAU Athletic Director Brian White are brothers and both sons of Duke University Athletic Director Kevin White.

“Brian obviously knew that his brother was doing it at Central Florida,” Graffin said. “We’re going to start with eight cabanas and see how it goes, and we have some other things that we’re thinking of doing beyond that.”

Mississippi State University, starting in 2016, set up eight cabanas in the upper deck of the north end zone at Davis Wade Stadium. Those units, priced at $18,000 a season, quickly sold out after they were first marketed to those on a waiting list for premium seats, said Scott Stricklin, the school’s former athletic director, who now holds the same position at Florida.

The Colonnade Group, a Birmingham, Ala., hospitality management firm tied to the UCF and MSU projects, is in talks with FAU to both produce the cabanas and operate those premium spaces, said Robbie Robertson, the company’s president and CEO. The firm developed FAU’s test unit. 

“They’re very popular and create a special look and feel,” Robertson said. “The cabanas at FAU will have more of a South Beach theme in the styling of the actual structure, with plantation shutters for walls. These things don’t all look alike. They’re designed to fit the atmosphere of the school.”

FAU officials believe the cabanas will fit the market in Boca Raton, an affluent community that enjoys the premium experience, Graffin said. It’s also an opportunity to create a new seating product to stand out in a competitive market for sports and entertainment in South Florida, he said.

Overall, sales of FAU’s premium seats are in good shape. Fifteen of the stadium’s 16 suites are sold with one reserved for single-game sales. Twenty-three of the 29 loge boxes were sold for the 2018 season with a few reserved for use by television broadcasters, Graffin said.

The school, a member of Conference USA, sells about 15,000 tickets for each home game, and actual attendance is in the neighborhood of 10,000 to 12,000, Graffin said. FAU Stadium has just short of 30,000 fixed seats.

“There are a lot of fair-weather fans in South Florida because there’s so much to do here,” he said. “We lose and people don’t want to watch it. They had high expectations after last year when we won 11 games. This year, some games went the wrong way and we couldn’t finish. That’s the biggest thing.”

  • by Don Muret
  • Published: December 11, 2018