Press Box Article

Cowboys Stadium seats still a hot ticket as team wraps up fourth season in Arlington

December 22, 2012

Dallas Morning News
Jeff Mosier

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If the newness has worn off Cowboys Stadium, it’s not evident in the stands or in the market for tickets.

As the team’s fourth season in Arlington wraps up, seats at the Dallas Cowboys’ showplace are selling as well as they did in year one, according to ticket resellers. Attendance this year is second only to the inaugural season in Cowboys Stadium, with the record-setting debut crowd in 2009 accounting for almost all the difference.

The few soft spots in the market appear to be at the high-dollar end. Personal seat licenses — which allow buyers to purchase tickets in more attractive areas of the stadium — are sometimes selling for a loss. A number of suite holders also have been unable to pay their bills.

Bill Farrell, who sells Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks tickets on eBay, was among those initially concerned about ticket demand at the new stadium. Cowboys Stadium has the league’s largest capacity, with some of the highest ticket prices and most expensive seat licenses.

“With a stadium as big as this, you worry the pricing might not hold,” he said. “The first year was good, but you didn’t know what to make of it.”

Farrell said he was “snakebit” last year by the work stoppage, back-to-back disappointing seasons and a shortage of good opponents at home. But he said ticket demand bounced back this year and improved as the season progressed.

ESPN’s analysis calculated the Cowboys’ home attendance this year at 87,954, making it tops in the league every year since moving to Arlington.

There’s no doubt that many ticket buyers in the first couple of years were partially motivated by the grandeur of the stadium. Fans wanted to see the giant arches, the glass end zone doors, the luxurious clubs and the world-record video board (now getting supplanted by a larger one in Houston’s Reliant Stadium).

Soon after Cowboys Stadium opened, onlookers gathered in the parking lots to take pictures, as they would a typical landmark. Stadium tours have become a major tourist attraction.

But sellers say the ticket market has returned to the basics: A winning team sells tickets; a losing team doesn’t.

“That [new stadium attraction] was about the first two years,” said Scott Baima, owner of Texas Tickets. “After the second year, I think everybody now depends on the record.”

The Cowboys are now tied for the NFC East lead and won five out of their last six games. The playoffs are a possibility for the first time since 2009.

“Up until this winning streak, it’s been an average year, but now we’re in the hunt,” Baima said, adding that Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints “wouldn’t be popular if we were 4-10.”

Rivals’ following

The Cowboys aren’t the only attractions. Sellers said the strength and following of the team’s opponents drive sales.

Last week’s game against the playoff-contending Pittsburgh Steelers drew 95,595, the largest crowd of the season — and one that featured an unusually large Steelers contingent. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones shot down speculation that Pittsburgh fans made up nearly half of the stadium crowd. He said the team calculated that about 15,000 fans were there for the Steelers.

Baima said that was also the Steelers fans’ travel game, which could account for the unusually boisterous visitors. Fans of some teams will pick a specific road game to attend, with the goal of trying to pack as many as possible into that stadium.

Sunday’s opponent, the Saints, often attract large numbers of fans when they play the Cowboys. Next season, the Green Bay Packers and the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos are expected to attract equally large crowds in Arlington.

“Next year, I think the market for tickets will be good,” said Hank Wendorf, owner of, which is located across the street from the stadium. “But I think some of that will be influenced by how they finish up this year.”

Seat license market

The personal seat license market is more complicated. The licenses give fans the right to buy the same seats at Cowboys Stadium for the first three decades in Arlington. They are purchased separately from the tickets.

Preston Hill, president of STR Marketplace, which operates seat license resale websites, said the Cowboys market is different than most others in the NFL. He said Dallas was the first team to maximize the price of its seat licenses, rather than trying to sell them out as quickly as possible.

“There is a different dynamic,” Hill said. “The Cowboys were probably the first to put theirs on the market at what I’d say is at market value vs. what we’d call a market-clearing value. … From the outside looking in, the Cowboys probably priced them at what was probably a fair market value at that time.”

If that’s true, that means there isn’t much room for profit to be made reselling seat licenses.

At a few stadiums, the licenses have turned out to be a good investment. Citing STR Marketplace data, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story published last year said upper-level seat licenses at the Steelers’ stadium initially sold for $250. Now they cost an average of more than $4,300 on the secondary market.

Cowboys Stadium seat license costs start at $2,000 and can run up to $150,000 for seats with suite-like amenities. Even at those prices, Hill said, most of Cowboys Stadium’s licenses aren’t deeply discounted.

“Most of the locations hold their value,” he said. “There aren’t that many that sell significantly below what face value was.”

Prices vary greatly

At personal seat license marketplaces, such as, the asking prices vary greatly. Some upper-deck licenses were on sale for a modest discount, while other license owners are asking double the face value or more. In the more expensive club seats, the prices were often just above or just below face value.

Farrell said that in some cases, he’s seen fans who financed their club-level seat licenses essentially give them away just to unload the long-term financial obligation. He said that’s more likely to happen with the most expensive seats when some people can no longer afford them.

Others who rented suites have gotten into similar financial jams. The Cowboys have sued about a dozen suite holders for failing to pay.

Wendorf said he’s bought and sold a small number of Cowboys seat licenses and never took a loss. But he said he wasn’t dealing in the most expensive ones and could afford to be patient.

“The only ones I sold, I made money on them, but I’m also not a distressed seller,” Wendorf said. “I’m sure there are people who sold them at a loss, but that probably because they had to get them sold quickly.”