Can you do that?

I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to the concept of seat licenses, mostly because I’ve never considered buying season tickets for anything and thus haven’t been required to think much about it. Beyond knowing that they have been a part of every new park, stadium, and arena to open over the past couple of decades, I don’t know how they really work.

One thing I thought I knew about them, however, was that you don’t go selling seat licenses to people who already have season tickets. I guess I was wrong about that, though, because the Cubs seem to be at least thinking about doing just that:

Seat licenses. On the final day of the last convention of the Tribune Co. era, the idea of selling seat licenses at Wrigley Field was termed a “possibility.”

Asked about handing down season tickets to relatives, Frank Maloney, the director of ticket operations, said the “fundamental rule is you can’t reassign tickets, but if it’s in your immediate family, we certainly will do that.”

Mark McGuire, the executive vice president of business operations, followed by saying: “This is the positive to a controversial thing called seat licenses. If a seat-license situation ever came up, it sort of makes a legal right to whoever holds the license to do what they want with the tickets. We don’t have that. Consequently, we’re left in some sort of a fine area. Sometimes we joke there’s a percentage of the season ticket-holder group that’s deceased.”

Asked directly about seat licenses, McGuire said the new owner would “look at all opportunities to figure out what they’ve got to do to renovate Wrigley Field to make it the way they’d like it, and that would be one of the things that’s a possibility.”

So what, do you institute a seat license each time a season ticket holder dies, or does everyone who already has season tickets get socked with a big fee in order to hang on to them? The former option seems like it would be hard to administer, the latter seems really damn unfair. If I’m missing something, someone please fill me in on how it would work.

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  1. Pete Toms said...

    Craig, this got a TON of press in NYC last year with the Giants and Jets selling PSLs for their new digs and a lot of longtime season ticket holders were really ticked off that they had to pony up big to keep their seats ( or even move to less desirable ones ).

    Not all fans are opposed to PSLs though.  Some Bears fans lobbied for them when Soldier Field was renovated because they saw them as a good investment and in fact there is a “secondary market” for PSLs.

    And now I blow my own horn.  I predicted last month chez Maury that we would see more PSLs in baseball ( they have been used more often in football than baseball ).

    NEW STADIA Darren Rovell predicts that in ‘09 a proposed new stadium project will fail. A popular and political backlash against public dollars for private stadiums (CitiField and Yankee Stadium bringing much national media attention to the subject), the credit crisis and the greatly softer market for stadium naming rights will be problematic for the Marlins (soon), Rays and A’s. Can you say PSL?

    Back to the Cubs.  Somebody, the owner, the ISFA or a combination of the two, is gonna invest a lot of money into Wrigley.  Where is it gonna come from?  That’s what the PSL is about.

  2. Rob said...

    The Red Sox do not have seat licenses.  They also claim that the seat ticket account is non-transferrable, and I suspect that would apply in the case of an immediate family member as well.

  3. Rob said...

    The easiest way to think about this is to think about season tickets as a home. Consider normal season tickets like leasing an apartment, and a PSL as buying a home. 

    Under normal season ticket plans, you are a season ticket holder at the will of the team. For PR and customer relations purposes teams will almost always give their season ticket holders first right of refusal upon renewal, but usually the team is under no legal obligation to do so. If a team wants or needs your seats, they can take them. With a PSL, you own the right to purchase tickets in your seats. Just like a home, this right is fully transferable, so you can pass it down or sell it at will.

    While PSLs often get a bad rap in the media, for some people the extra cash is a worthwhile investment if they want to keep the seats in the family or could potentially profit from selling the PSL in the secondary market. Basically, converting from normal season tickets to PSLs is like an apartment building converting to condos. For some residents it will seem unfair and like ownership is trying to price them out. For others its a fantastic opportunity to keep their home and gain equity in it.

    As far as instituting them, there are three main options teams go with: requiring only new season ticket holders to purchase them, requiring every season ticket holder to have one, or only using them for prime seating locations while keeping a traditional arrangement for the cheaper seats. Obviously whoever purchases the Cubs will have to take a look at all these options and figure out which will generate the most revenue without generating bad press or ill will among fans.

  4. Levi Stahl said...

    My big worry with my Cubs season tickets is less that they’ll force me to pony up for a PSL (which, admittedly, would suck) than that the new ownership will realize that they’re wildly underpricing the upper deck. They could easily double ticket prices in the upper deck and do just fine, but the Tribune, for all its flaws, always seemed to take the line that it was good to keep some seats reasonably affordable for the once-a-year family outings, trips that will yield significant long-term returns in TV ratings, merchandise sales, and ticket sales down the road.

    Whether the next owners will feel the same way is yet to be seen.

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