Copyright 2013 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Much has been made of the hundreds of millions of dollars that taxpayers will plow into the Atlanta Braves' and Falcons' planned new stadiums, and of the even larger sums that the teams will contribute. But the bucks don't stop there.
Braves and Falcons fans are bracing to pay, too.
"The stadiums themselves are going to be really nice, I know that, but my first concern is that ticket prices are going to rise," said Michael Gray, 24, an Atlantan who describes himself as a fan of both teams, but especially the Braves. "I probably will not be able to go to as many games just because it will be more disposable income spent on tickets."
Braves and Falcons officials say they'll set prices carefully and strategically in the stadiums --- both slated to open in 2017 --- to ensure access for a wide variety of fans. Still, fans are well aware that teams in new stadiums tend to raise prices for just about everything, especially tickets.
The six Major League Baseball teams that have opened new stadiums since 2006 increased ticket prices by an average of 36 percent in the first season, while the six NFL teams that have moved into new stadiums since 2003 hiked prices by an average of 26 percent, according to annual surveys by the industry publication Team Marketing Report.
The surveys understate the rising costs because they don't include "premium" seats --- seats that come with an added amenity, such as access to a private lounge, and are more numerous in newer stadiums. The surveys also don't factor in personal seat licenses, or PSLs, which are one-time fees that teams with stadiums under construction often charge fans for the right to buy season tickets in the future.
The Braves have said they won't sell seat licenses for their planned Cobb County stadium. The Falcons will sell them for their new downtown stadium but haven't revealed the prices --- a source of worry for some fans.
"It definitely is (a concern) because you look around the league and see what is happening with other people that have to pay for PSLs," said Stacey Derico, an 11-year Falcons season-ticket holder. "I don't think Atlanta is ready for that."
The San Francisco 49ers sold personal seat licenses for $2,000 to $80,000, depending on location, in their new stadium that opens next year. The New York Giants and Jets sold them for $1,000 to $25,000 in their stadium that opened in 2010. And the Dallas Cowboys' seat licenses were priced from $2,000 to $150,000 in their stadium that opened in 2009.
Without providing specifics, Falcons owner Arthur Blank and team President Rich McKay have said repeatedly that their seat-license program won't be in the same ballpark as those examples.
"It will be more modest than has been done in recent times ... more modest when you look at the gross amount raised and therefore the individual prices," McKay said.
A study by consulting firm Barrett Sports Group projected the Atlanta market could produce $100 million to $200 million in Falcons seat-license sales, far behind the $371 million brought in by the Giants, $293 million by the Jets and $500 million-plus by the Cowboys. Whatever the Falcons generate would reduce the team's portion of the stadium cost by that amount.
At an event for season-ticket holders before a recent Falcons game, Derico said, team officials pledged to provide information next year on seat-license prices.
"Right now, we probably have some of the more reasonably priced tickets in the league," said Derico, who expressed satisfaction with the $820 he pays for two season tickets on the first row of the upper deck inside the 15-yard line. "But I think that is going to change astronomically."
The Falcons' average ticket price of $83.71 per game is 13th-highest in the 32-team NFL this season, while the Braves' average of $17.32 ranked 27th among the 30 MLB teams last season, according to Team Marketing Report's calculations.
A family of four, buying four average-priced tickets, four hot dogs, two small beers and two small soft drinks and paying to park one car, would spend about $400 on a Falcons game and about $125 on a Braves game. Of course, the Braves play 81 regular-season home games per year and the Falcons eight.
"We are very mindful of keeping that affordability and making sure we have ticket prices for all levels in the new stadium," said Derek Schiller, the Braves' executive vice president of sales and marketing. "That includes our primary audience, which continues to be families with moms and dads coming to the ballpark with their kids."
McKay has said the Falcons also are committed to a pricing structure that keeps current fans in the stadium.
Although neither team has set ticket prices for the new stadiums, both have acknowledged plans for an increased inventory of premium, pricey seats with luxurious amenities in prime locations.
The Braves' stadium will have about 8,000 fewer seats than rarely filled Turner Field, but "we will have more than enough seats to offer affordably priced tickets and also to offer the premium and even super-premium seats for those who want it," Schiller said.
The Braves cite a demand at both ends of the spectrum. Mike Plant, the team's executive vice president of business operations, said there's a waiting list for Turner Field's most expensive seats, the 140 SunTrust Club seats behind home plate that include access to a swanky underground lounge and fetch $325 per game on multiyear leases.
"Could you do that with 5,000 seats?" Plant said. "Probably not."
Most fans are more concerned about the prices of the not-so-exclusive seats and eats.
"Of course ticket prices are going to go up with about a 20 percent reduction in total seats," Braves season-ticket holder Alexander Harris said by email. "What concerns me is where else wallets will be squeezed, the concession stands."
Prices typically rise there, too, in a new stadium, although not as dramatically as tickets. In the newest MLB stadium, the Miami Marlins' ballpark that opened in 2012, hot dogs went from $5 to $6 and beer from $7 to $8.
The Marlins raised ticket prices by 55 percent, more than the Minnesota Twins did when they moved into a new stadium in 2010 (45 percent) but less than the New York Yankees in 2009 (76 percent).
"I know a lot of people are concerned about transportation issues at the new Braves stadium and things like that. But that's not my concern," said Gray, who attended about 20 Braves games last season, usually sitting in the "reasonably priced" upper deck or outfield pavilion. "Mine is just, how am I going to be able to pay for going to those games?"
* A definitive contract on the planned downtown stadium, much more detailed than the memorandum of understanding signed in April, is expected to be completed this month among the Falcons, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the city of Atlanta.
* The next set of architectural plans is due in January from the design team led by 360 Architecture.
* Initial responses from real estate developers interested in partnering with the Braves on a mixed-use complex adjacent to the planned Cobb County stadium are due Friday, and the Braves intend to identify three to five finalists for the role by Jan. 10.
* The Braves are scheduled to close Jan. 20 on the purchase of the 60-acre site that the team has under contract for the stadium and mixed-use development.
* A lead architect for the stadium likely will be hired in January.
* Ground-breaking is set for April.new stadiums
NEW STADIUMS, NEW PRICES
How much pro football and Major League Baseball teams raised ticket prices in their first seasons in new stadiums in recent years:
MLB team Opened Price change
Miami Marlins 2012 55%
Minnesota Twins 2010 45%
New York Yankees 2009 76%
New York Mets 2009 9%
Washington Nationals 2008 18%
St. Louis Cardinals 2006 12%
NFL team Opened Price change
N.Y. Jets (photo below) 2010 32%
New York Giants 2010 26%
Dallas Cowboys 2009 31%
Indianapolis Colts 2008 14%
Arizona Cardinals 2006 14%
Philadelphia Eagles 2003 38%
Source: Annual ticket-price surveys by Team Marketing Report. Premium seats (seats that come with an added amenity) and personal seat licenses are not included.
Braves outing for a family of 4
Parking (one vehicle) $15
Hotdogs (times 4) $6 each
Soft drinks (times 2) $4 each
Beers (times 2) $7 each
Tickets (times 4) $17 each
Falcons outing for a family of 4
Parking (one vehicle) $25
Hotdogs (times 4) $6 each
Soft drinks (times 2) $4 each
Beers (times 2) $7 each
Tickets (times 4) $83 each