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Oakland Sells Its PSL as a "One-Time Equity Membership Fee"

A typical funding mix for a new professional sports stadium might see the team owner pledging a third to half of the construction cost, with the rest the responsibility of the public at large (bonds) and the buying public (seat licenses). Then the owner pushes his share of the costs onto the backs of his corporate "partners" through the sale of naming rights … but I digress. The question is, even with everyone sharing in the up-front costs, who benefits in the long run? Well, the fans get shorter lines at concessions stands and restrooms, more culinary options and some other small perks. The corporate interests get to associate their name with something gleaming and new, as well as a free luxury suite and other perks. The team owner gets skyrocketing revenues and a franchise valuation that goes through the roof.

Seems fair, right?

In Oakland, Calif., where the NFL's Raiders play in between trips to Los Angeles, the concept of a new stadium has been kicked around for a number of years, but progress will soon be made on the number-one issue: Who will pay to build it. To this end, the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority recently commissioned a 40-question survey in which the populace will be asked how much they'd be willing to pay for a personal seat license - or, as the survey calls it, a "one-time equity membership fee."

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If only that bit of Orwellian phraseology were accurate. Equity in the team - a chance to profit by the new building's many new and enhanced revenue streams - would both give the public a real stake in a team's fortunes and offer fair compensation for the millions of dollars given, no strings attached, to the team's multimillionaire or even billionaire owner.

Actually, now that I think more about it, nearly all the words used to describe the Oakland PSL - or rather, the Oakland "1xEMF" - are suspect. It's a "one-time" fee, but like all PSLs (and unlike suite sales), the fee doesn't get you the ticket (that's a second-time fee). "Equity" we've covered. "Membership" … does that make somebody who purchases a game-day ticket a "one-time member?"

That leaves "fee." It is a fee.

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