Press Box Article

 
Bengal COA Values Plummet

 

The Enquirer

Dustin Dow

 

Wednesday January 14, 2008

 

The losing season of 2008 hasn’t been tough on just the Bengals. The team’s fans – along with ticket brokers – who had financially invested in the Bengals’ success are feeling let down now that their seat license contracts are looking less like blue-chip stocks and more like junk bonds.

In less than two years, the average street price of a Paul Brown Stadium Charter Ownership Agreement sold on the popular trading exchange, SeasonTicketRight.com, has dropped from $2,783 to $536.

Charter Ownership Agreements, or COAs, aren’t season tickets. They are merely the rights to buy season tickets for individual seats at Paul Brown Stadium.

Ownership of a COA has been a season ticket requirement since the stadium opened in 2000, but the contracts can be resold at market price, giving season-ticket holders the option of using the Bengals success – or lack thereof – as an investment tool.

With the arrival of coach Marvin Lewis in 2003 , Bengals seats became such a hot item that a season-ticket waiting list developed, driving up the secondary market price for COAs, which have a face value of $300-$1,500 depending on the seat location.

By February 2007, a pair of section 217 seats sold for $8,000 at SeasonTicketRights.com. Similar COAs today (section 218) are listed for $600, following a 4-11-1 season.

“It’s definitely a buying opportunity right now with the Bengals,” said Kyle Burks, president of SeasonTicketRight.com. “You’re not going to see COAs get much cheaper than this. The majority of fans purchase COAs as an emotional purchase and don’t really care about appreciation in value. But, if you buy now on Bengals COAs, you’re probably going to see a significant increase in value over the next four years.”

At the other end of the market are the Pittsburgh Steelers who are playing in the AFC Championship game Sunday. A pack of four Steelers seat licenses recently sold for $91,000, and the average Steelers seat license price in December was $8,970.

The Bengals realize fans are frustrated and financially squeezed. So with a Jan. 30 deadline approaching for club seat renewals, the team is offering a sort of bailout. COA holders of club seats, which feature access to club level lounges, need only to renew their tickets for two more years, which might be welcome relief for fans whose lengthy club leases just expired.

Indeed, the Bengals are currently embroiled in a lawsuit with some club seat holders over the terms of those six- and 10-year COA leases. Additionally, any outstanding COA payments due will be deferred for 2009, Bengals spokesperson Jack Brennan said, “to make it easier on our fans in these uncertain economic times.”


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Rich Ehemann doesn’t care about the shortened lease period. The 43-year-old Milford resident is fed up with the team, particularly owner Mike Brown. Ehemann is trying to sell his two club seat COAs at a loss to make it happen. Having upgraded his COAs three times, Ehemann has spent a total of $4,400 on COAs for two seats at Paul Brown Stadium.

Midday Wednesday, his eBay listing for the COAs had received a high bid of $560. Club seat COAs are typically harder to sell because the season-ticket prices for those seats are usually the highest in the stadium, ranging from additional $1,250-$2,600 per seat.

“The COAs were supposed to be an investment and go up in value over time,” Ehemann said. “I have upgraded my seats three times since the stadium opened and paid a premium on the COA each time. Now, my club seat COAs are virtually worthless due to Mike Brown’s mismanagement of the team. Even after the stock market crash,Bengals COAs are the worst investment of my life.”

Others, such as Miami University business student Nabih David , see the situation as a rare opportunity. David, 20, who bought four COAs at $600 each in 2005 is trying to sell those COAs at a loss -- $400 apiece -- hoping he’ll be able to raise money to buy even better COAs in the club level at rock-bottom prices.

“Right now is the cheapest you’re ever going to get a COA for a club seat,” David said. “Their face value is $750, but I’m planning to get one for two to three hundred in the next couple weeks.”

He figures, as long as the Bengals approach mediocrity next season, he’ll be able to more than make up the difference by selling the individual game tickets.

“Mike Brown has proven that mediocrity will sell out that stadium,” David said. “Next year or the year after, the Bengals are going to approach an 8-8 record, and that would really raise the value of those tickets.”

The resale value hardly matters now to Robert Young a long-time fan from Milford who claims to have not missed a home game since 1984. That streak will end next season, he said, because he’s planning to sell his two COAs for $400, after purchasing them for $600.

Like all COAs, if Young didn’t sell them and just let them expire by not renewing his season tickets, control of the seats would transfer back to the team, which would be able to sell the COAs to a new buyer.

“For me it was never about an investment,” Young said. “I bought the seats as a die-hard fan who was attending every game anyway. My motivation for selling was that if I let the tickets revert back to the team, (Brown) would be rewarded for his incompetence.”

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