The San Francisco 49ers put “stadium builder licenses” (aka personal seat licenses) up for sale this week for 9,000 seats at their planned Santa Clara stadium, and the initial reports seem to show a fair bit of sticker shock among fans.
The prices on the initial round of lower level club seats run from $20,000 to $80,000 for a lifetime license to buy tickets (fans then still need to pony up for tickets as well). That’s significantly more than the PSLs that the New York Giants PSLs (which topped out at $20,000) and Jets (top price $84,000, but with some lower-level seats priced as low as $2,500 after PSL sales stalled) and even more than the Dallas Cowboys PSLs, which run from $16,000 to $50,000.
If commenters on the official 49ers message board are any guide, this could be a tough sell, with 84% of those polled saying they have no interest in buying PSLs at these prices. (Sample comment: “I was prepared to pay $10K per seat to keep a similar location, but twice that AND a ticket price increase of over 250% is just plain crazy.”) This could change as lower-priced PSLs become available for non-club seats, obviously, but it’s certainly not a good sign for the 49ers as they try to avoid the a Jets-style PSL glut and last-minute price slashing.
All this should be of concern to Santa Clara, because the PSL money is slated to be used to pay back $450 million in public debt that the city stadium authority will be borrowing
from the 49ers, at 8.5% interest. [UPDATE: Sorry, confused two different stadium loans there for a minute. For the full explanation, see my original post, which got it right.] If there’s a shortfall … well, nobody’s exactly sure what happens, except that it’ll be the city’s problem, not the team’s. It actually presents a weird incentive for the 49ers in setting prices — if they price seats too high and they don’t sell, they’re still guaranteed to get their cash from Santa Clara (except for the actual tickets they’d end up eating, obviously), which may be one reason the team has been so aggressive about pricing.
Of course, there’s also that petition drive underway to hold a revote on the entire stadium project, which makes this not exactly the best time to piss off your fan base. The stadium opposition group Santa Clara Plays Fair issued a press release last night touting radio show host (and former weatherman and current climate change denier) Brian Sussman’s switch from the pro-stadium camp to the anti-stadium side, with Sussman telling listeners, “My eyes were finally opened when the football team informed me my four seats in the new stadium would cost $160,000.” How many of his fellow fans balk at those prices could determine whether the Santa Clara succeeds or fails — and just possibly, whether it gets built at all.