Press Box Article

Jets land $16 million in seat license auction


The Star-Ledger

Maura McDermott


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Wednesday October 29, 2008


A few more seats than expected will be available for Jets fans in the team's new stadium.


An auction designed to sell 2,000 seats in the Coaches Club section netted $16 million for the Jets, but nearly 1,400 of those seats remain on the market. The team is nevertheless pleased with the auction, in which fans paid an average price of $26,000 for the right to buy season tickets, team owner Woody Johnson said yesterday.


It was the first auction of its kind, so the team couldn't be certain how many seats would sell and at what prices, he said.


"It was a turbulent economic time, and people recognized the value of these seats as being the best seats in sports," he said. "By any stretch of the imagination, that's positive."


The auction was closely watched by rival teams who might follow suit and sports business experts. One of the hottest topics in the multibillion dollar industry these days is how big a bite the global recession is going to take out of professional sports teams.


The nine-day auction of the personal seat licenses ended Monday, with an eye-popping top price of $82,000, according to the team. The lowest price paid at auction was $10,500, Johnson said.


In all, 620 PSLs were sold. The team will sell the remaining PSLs -- which grant the right to buy tickets for a particular seat, and can be resold like liquor licenses -- at fixed prices within the next few weeks, Johnson said. The prices have not yet been set.


The financial crisis likely dampened fans' ardor for the high-priced PSLs, said Lawrence Swift, a prominent sports industry attorney.


"These kinds of licenses are luxury items, either for a business or a family," he said. "This may not be the time for a business to invest that kind of money. .¤.¤. It's a time for consumers of luxury items to maintain a low profile."


Johnson said he wasn't so sure.


"The people that buy these kinds of products were looking beyond the current downturn in the market," the Jets owner said. "Did it affect it? That's a question you'll have to ask the economists."


The buyer who bid a record-setting $400,000 for two seats at a private auction before the online bidding has no regrets, Johnson said.


"He's already had offers, and he said he's not selling," Johnson said.

The Jets did learn a few lessons from the online bidding, such as not flooding the marketplace with too many seats at once and making sure the auctions close in the evening, not during working hours, team officials said.


At first, the Jets got less-than-optimal prices when they put as many as 80 sets of tickets on sale at once, said Kyle Burks, who tracked the bidding closely.

"They had too many listings at once and, hence, you spread your buyers out," said Burks, the founder of, a website where fans buy and sell PSLs.

But after two days, the Jets scaled back to 10 or 20 auctions per day, Burks said. As a result, the prices rose, but fewer seats sold, Burks said.

No matter how many PSLs sold, the team scored in the public relations game, said Dan Migala, a sports marketing expert.


"They got a ton of free publicity," he said. Plus, he added, "what they've done is, now the people that bid and didn't win, they've got their data and in theory they've got their estimated price point."


The Coaches Club seats will be directly behind the home team's bench in the $1.6 billion Meadowlands stadium the Jets and Giants will share starting in 2010. The $700-a-game ticket price grants access to an exclusive lounge and a patio behind the home team's bench.


Less exclusive club seats require one-time license fees of $5,000 to $25,000.


Fans yesterday expressed amazement at the cost of seats in the new stadium.


"It's ridiculous to pay that kind of money just to see a football game," said Don Habermehl, a Jets season ticket holder for 31 years.


Those who can afford the top Coaches Club prices might not even mind that they could end up sitting next to someone who paid much less for a PSL, he added.


"I guess if somebody's foolish enough to pay $82,000 for a seat, it probably won't make a difference, they'll just say, 'I got the seats I wanted, and I'm not worried about anyone else,'" Habermehl said.


The Jets are the 16th NFL team to use licenses to help pay off construction costs.


In addition to the Coaches Club seats, the Jets also plan to sell 45,000 licenses for seats in the mezzanine and lower bowl, at prices from $4,000 to $25,000. In the spring, the team will sell season tickets for the 27,000 upper bowl seats with no license fees.


The Giants are selling licenses for all 82,500 seats, at prices from $1,000 to $20,000.