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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tim Tucker; Staff

Falcons fans must wait a while longer to find out how much they'll have to pay for personal seat licenses to keep their season tickets in the team's new stadium. But other key provisions of the PSL plan were revealed in a recently completed contract between the team and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.

The agreement, dated Feb. 5 and obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state's Open Records Act, outlines a program in which the Falcons will price and sell the seat licenses to help pay for the $1.2 billion retractable-roof stadium slated to open in 2017.

According to the agreement, payment of a one-time seat-license fee will provide the right to purchase Falcons season tickets in a specific seat for at least 30 years. All Falcons season tickets in the new stadium, regardless of seat location, will require a PSL.

The PSL will not include the right to buy tickets for the seat at other events held in the stadium.

The seat licenses would be transferable, or sellable, by those who buy them. Transfers by individuals to nonfamily members or by businesses to unaffiliated entities generally would require prior written approval from the Falcons.

The contract and other documents obtained by the AJC, including a sales form to be signed by seat-license buyers, cover many aspects of the program, even describing several financing options fans could consider. But the documents offer no hint of the anticipated prices.

Atlanta Falcons Stadium Co., a subsidiary of the team, will "develop a pricing structure for the PSLs which must be approved by the GWCCA," according to the agreement. The GWCCA is the state agency that will own the stadium and lease it to the Falcons, who will operate it. Prices "will be based on, among other things, the location of the seat and ... the associated amenities," the documents state.

Personal seat licenses have been widely used across the country, particularly by NFL teams, to raise money for building or renovating stadiums. This marks the first time an Atlanta team will use them. Each PSL applies to one seat, meaning a family seeking four season tickets would need to buy four PSLs.

At other stadiums in recent years, seat licenses have cost thousands of dollars per seat and, in prime locations, tens of thousands of dollars per seat. Without providing specifics, the Falcons have said their program will be more modest than in some recent cases.

The Falcons have "no specific date at this time" for setting and announcing seat-license prices, Kim Shreckengost, executive vice president of the team's parent company, AMB Group, said by email Monday. But she indicated it's still a ways off.

"We anticipate club seat relocations will begin in early 2015, and season ticket relocations will start later that year," she said. "PSL and ticket prices will be finalized sometime before then."

Shreckengost said "a small number of seats will be held back" from the PSL program "for internal business or community purposes." But "any season tickets sold to the general public will require the purchase of a PSL."

Other details of the Falcons' seat-license plan, according to the documents obtained by the AJC:

* Three payment options are contemplated: a single lump-sum payment, a short-term payment schedule with no finance charges and a long-term payment schedule with finance charges.

* The seat licenses will be offered first to the Falcons' existing club-seat and season-ticket holders. A wait list, with a refundable deposit, is planned for others. Fans on the wait list would be able to buy PSLs available after current season-ticket holders secure their seats.

* The licenses won't include the right to buy tickets for such events as the SEC Championship football game, Chick-fil-A Bowl, or a Super Bowl or Final Four played in the stadium.

* The licenses also won't include the right to purchase tickets to games of any team using the stadium except the Falcons. However, license holders may be offered "priority" access to available tickets for some other teams' games.

* PSL holders can control their specified seats for 30 years --- the Falcons' minimum lease term in the stadium --- and potentially 45 years if the team extends its lease. However, the PSLs will expire if the stadium is renovated or rebuilt at a cost of more than $300 million after the 30th year.

* If the holder of a seat license fails to pay on time for season tickets "at a price determined each year by the team," the PSL will terminate and the Falcons can sell a new one for the same seat.

* While approval of seat-license transfers "will not be unreasonably withheld," a long list of terms and conditions includes an acknowledgement that a buyer "is not acquiring any PSL as an investment and has no expectation of profit." A transfer fee will be charged.

* All net proceeds from seat-license sales before the stadium opens will go toward the cost of construction, effectively reducing the Falcons' contribution by that amount. Proceeds from PSL sales after the stadium opens will go to the Falcons.

Falcons fans have inquired often about seat-license prices since it became known in 2012 that PSLs would be part of the stadium financing plan in some way.

In three recently built NFL stadiums, the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants/Jets and San Francisco 49ers caused sticker shock with their PSL prices. Depending on seat location, the Cowboys' prices ranged from $2,000 to $150,000, the Giants/Jets from $1,000 to $25,000 and the 49ers from $2,000 to $80,000. The Falcons have said they don't expect to generate as much money from their PSL program as those franchises did.

The Minnesota Vikings last week announced lower, although still considerable, seat license prices for their stadium that is slated to open in 2016, one year before the Falcons stadium.

Minnesota's PSL fees vary from a high of $9,500 for field-level 50-yard-line seats to a low of $500 for some upper-level seats in the end zones and corners, averaging out to about $2,500 per seat.

The Vikings intend to net $100 million from seat licenses, which the team said would rank in the middle in inflation-adjusted dollars of the 19 NFL teams that have sold them. The Falcons have not said how much they expect to raise, but a consultant's study commissioned by the GWCCA projected $100 million to $200 million.

 

February 11, 2014

 

 
 

 

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