Blank: Seat licenses are part of stadium plan

As expected, Atlanta Falcons fans will be asked to help pay for the team’s proposed new stadium.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank acknowledged Monday that the team plans to sell personal seat licenses in the retractable-roof stadium planned to replace the Georgia Dome. That revenue would go toward the cost of building the new stadium.

“There will be some component of PSLs,” Blank said in an interview at his Buckhead office shortly after the Georgia World Congress Center Authority board approved a nonbinding agreement on the framework of a stadium deal. “We’re going to try to keep that to the lowest possible number we can that’s feasible. It will not be in the range of some of the newer stadiums that you have heard and read about.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in October that the proposed deal would give the Falcons the right to sell personal seat licenses, but the team had not confirmed its intention until Monday. PSLs have been sold by at least 16 NFL teams. In such programs, fans are asked to pay one-time fees for the right to subsequently buy season tickets in a specific seat for the life of the building or a defined number of years.

Some of the recent PSL programs have provoked sticker shock. According to a study done for the GWCCA, the New York Giants’ and Jets’ seat licenses were priced from $1,000 to $25,000, depending on seat location, and the Dallas Cowboys’ from $2,000 to $150,000. The San Francisco 49ers reportedly are getting as much as $80,000 for seat licenses in the stadium they are building in Santa Clara, Calif.

“This program will not be close” to such examples, Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said.

McKay and Blank said the team has not determined how much it would charge for seat licenses or how many of the new stadium’s seats would require them.

“We have done some research; there is more to be done,” Blank said.

A study for the GWCCA by consultant Barrett Sports Group projected PSLs could bring in $100 million to $200 million here.

“That’s a number that wouldn’t shock me,” Blank said. “In the case of the Dallas stadium, it was substantially more than that – a little more than twice that. In the case of the Jets/Giants, it was well more than twice that number.

“Atlanta doesn’t have a history of PSLs … We’ll try to price them and position them in a way that will continue to support having the right kind of mix of fans in our building.”

The nonbinding terms approved by the GWCCA board — intended as the basis for negotiations toward a more definitive agreement — give the Falcons “the right to determine” conditions of a seat-license program, including price. Since the taxpayer contribution to the stadium’s construction would be limited to hotel-motel tax revenue, PSL sales effectively would reduce the Falcons’ obligation.

“That will be a piece of it, but the great majority of it will be funded on a private basis,” Blank said.

Blank expects the stadium to cost “about a billion dollars” with “about $300 million of it” from hotel-motel taxes. If those projections prove accurate, the Falcons would be committed to cover about $700 million, minus whatever is generated from PSLs. The team would be eligible for up to $200 million in loans and grants from the NFL and also could raise money by selling naming rights.

Aside from PSLs, ticket prices tend to rise in new stadiums. An examination by the AJC in May found ticket prices increased 26 percent in the first season in the NFL’s three newest stadiums.

“Ticket prices certainly will change, but we will try to be consistent with what we’ve done in terms of our values and principles since 2001,” Blank said.