Watch that wallet Cubs fans and get ready for big changes
More than two years ago, I wrote a post on a friend's blog about the crazy ticket prices at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. What is now dubbed as "Jerry's World" by some, in honor of billionaire owner and plastic surgery lover Jerry Jones, was the highest attended stadium in the NFL last year. Nearly 720,000 fans attended Cowboys home games, which amounts to nearly 90,000 a game. Even more impressive is that the stadium surpassed capacity every game, reaching 112 percent. With their average ticket price at $160, the highest in the NFL, you can be sure the "fan experience" is rapidly changing across the sports landscape.
All of this hits home here in Chicago, as Cubs fans are getting used to year one of the Ricketts family owning the team. With the Lovable Losers proudly owning the distinction of the highest priced ticket in baseball at $52.56, many long time season ticket holders are bracing for the reality that personal seat licenses will be the next logical progression in ticket pricing.
Personal seat licenses, called PSL's by some and Debenture by our European friends, are quickly becoming the norm in sports. A PSL grants the holder rights to purchase tickets year after year for the given stadium. The fan must first pay a one time fee for the PSL of each seat “owned.” Only then does the fan pay the ticket price for each seat every year for every game.
If you choose not to purchase tickets one year, you lose the PSL back to the team and forfeit the original value. If your team decides to go Seattle Supersonic on you, fill a Mayflower truck late at night like the Baltimore Colts, and move business to another city, you're out of luck again for the original value of the PSL.
A PSL is like a stock of sorts, where it can be bought and sold between fans at whatever price they find suitable. So if your team just won a championship and you want a PSL, prepare to take out a mortgage. If your team is picking first in upcoming draft, you might be able to find a bargain at a local garage sale.
The Cubs and chairman Tom Rickets have many reasons to implement PSL's. For one, it's instant revenue from a fanbase that comes out to the ballpark no matter the quality of the weather or of the product on the field. It's been mentioned that the Ricketts family is planning to invest into a grand scale renovation project in the $250 million range in time for the 100th anniversary of the ballpark. The Ricketts just spent about $900 million purchasing the Cubs and American Express doesn't exactly dish out loans of that nature. While advertisements such as the new Toyota sign above the bleachers bring in cash, nothing could bring in more than ordering, not politely asking, fans to pony up to see their favorite team.
There's no guarantee this will happen. And even if it does, there's a good chance that not every season ticketed seat will instantly become a PSL seat. The Cubs however would become the first MLB team to implement PSL's without building a new stadium, usually the main reasoning behind starting PSL's. Currently, the Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Padres, and Giants have PSL plans of various sorts in their new stadiums. Notice the Yankees with their palace of a stadium opted not to do PSL's. And I believe they finished last year strong.
So Cubs fans, as we continue to attend games and we observe the changes to Wrigley Field such as the upgraded bathrooms (still including the troughs) or the blown up posters outside the stadium (who doesn't want to see Sweet Lou's mug before you enter the ballpark?), know that more changes will be ahead. And there's a pretty, pretty good chance that it'll make a dent in your wallet.