Cheap food prices won’t help Falcons’ fans who can’t afford PSLs

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, right, with team president Rich McKay, announced “fan first” menu pricing in 2016, but the cost to get into a Falcons’ game in 2017 is hardly “fan first.” (Brant Sanderlin / AJC file)

When it comes to a business’ most important areas, marketing and sales, the Falcons understand they are in a position of leverage. They have the best product in the Atlanta sports market. They’re moving into a new stadium with a roof seemingly imagined in an Isaac Asimov novel. They’re expected to be Super Bowl contenders again, notwithstanding a lingering hangover from the last one.

But the leverage the Falcons hold is leading to a completely new way of doing business in the Atlanta marketplace. While they’ve gone to great lengths to promote the cheap-eats menu at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, punctuated by $2 hot dogs, they’re mandating fans purchase season tickets and accompanying personal seat licenses (PSLs) that range from $500 to $45,000 per seat to get into that building, on top of the cost of admission ($55 to $385 per ticket).

There will be no sale of single-game tickets. This has been the Falcons’ public stance all along, but it never seemed realistic until now. They’ve sold approximately 55,000 of 61,000 available PSLs and they’re confident the final 6,000 will go in the next eight weeks.

So if you can’t afford PSLs and higher ticket prices, or prefer not to take out a home equity loan, or choose not to cut off a limb to pay for tickets on the secondary market, enjoy watching from home.

I understand this is a business. I’m not oblivious to the No. 1 rule of economics: supply and demand. The Falcons are the second-toughest ticket in the area, immediately behind Georgia football. But I’m struggling to understand the mindset of an image-conscious owner like Arthur Blank, who won’t hold back even 1,000 tickets per home game in a 71,000-seat stadium for sale to the general public.

Several fans have contacted me over recent months to complain about the Falcons’ intended policy. My response was consistent: Calm down, they won’t follow through because this market won’t support 61,000 PSL sales. But the response has been greater than I anticipated, presumably boosted by last year’s run to the Super Bowl. So point for Blank.

But how Blank and his minions can spend so much time saying they sympathize with fans’ struggling to pay high concession prices, then mandate they buy PSLs, pay increased ticket prices and presumably more expensive parking, seems contradictory.

Sherri Davis, a long-time fan from Covington, researched ticket prices on the secondary market and said, “What difference does it make if it’s $2 for a hot dog? If I’m going to pay $1,000 for two tickets, I should get the hot dog for free.”

Blank needs to recoup his investment in the $1.5 billion stadium. The PSL sales amount to more than $250 million. This will be on top of the $200 million for construction costs he received from an Atlanta hotel-motel tax.

But while the Braves’ stadium deal has dominated attention for the past two years, it’s worth repeating that the public investment into the Falcons’ stadium goes far beyond $200 million. There is expected to be another several hundred million dollars in tax money that will be used to service the debt over 30 years, and pay for maintenance and stadium operations.

It’s also worth noting that while this technically is a public facility, Blank will receive all revenue from events in the stadium, beyond Falcons and Atlanta United games.

So let’s go easy on applause for $3 peanuts.

Davis attended two games in the Georgia Dome last season. She said she spent less than $200 per ticket for the season opener against Tampa Bay and over $200 for the Seattle playoff game on the first level. “If I paid the same for ticket now on Ticketmaster Ticket Exchange, I’m in the nosebleed seats,” she said.

“I was really looking forward to this season. I was all hyped about the new stadium and the video board and the cheap food. But if I can’t afford to get in, what good is it? I just can’t believe the average fan will be able to afford to get in any more. I’m disappointed. I guess I’ll just have to watch the games from my sofa.”

Michael Drake, who oversees Falcons’ PSL sales as senior vice president and chief revenue officer for Blank’s AMB Sports and Entertainment, also handled ticket licensing for new stadiums for the Cowboys and the 49ers. Neither had a public sale of tickets. He said the 49ers sold individual game tickets in the second season, but only to PSL holders.

The New York Giants maintained there would be no single-game sales in their new stadium, but pulled back three weeks before the 2010 season and made a limited number of tickets available. Drake said the Falcons won’t do the same, “because at the end of the day, I’m not sure what we’re accomplishing by putting tickets out there. … It’s essentially what the secondary market does.”

He said the team has no interest in “managing” that business. That excuse rings hollow. More accurate is that the Falcons have backed themselves into a corner. If they have single-game sales now, they will anger people who bought season tickets in the belief it was the only way to get into the building.

Drake said people are free to purchase season tickets, then keep only one or two games and sell the rest. But that doesn’t satisfy the individual who can’t afford the up-front investment.

He understands why many fans are upset.

“It’s hard to satisfy everybody. If I had the ability to do that, it would be wonderful. But I’m not sure the single game offer satisfies everybody.”

Tickets for the Falcons’ home opener against Green Bay on Sept. 17 are predictably high on the secondary market: about $200 for upper-level end zone to several thousand dollars for prime seats on the first level. If the Falcons held back a limited number of tickets for individual games, it would not have a profound impact on the secondary market. But it would be a worthy gesture for a fan base that has suffered through more bad years than good ones.

Davis referenced the prices on Ticket Exchange, saying, “I get that people want to sell their tickets and make money. Scalping used to be illegal, but I guess the NFL is OK with that.”

 

Subscribe to the,We Never Played The Game” podcast with the AJC’s Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. Episodes also can be downloaded from on-demand link on WSBRadio.com.

A writer’s dozen pre-vacation ramblings

Reader Comments 0

59 comments
DerekGator
DerekGator

I love the Falcons but the City of Atlanta has no business giving a Billionaire $200 mil of taxpayers money and another $300 mil of future collected taxes to pay off the loans on the balance.  Taxpayers are the suckers.  Whoever approved this deal and the Braves deal should be in jail. 

PTC DAWG1
PTC DAWG1

Hard for ATL to pass up someone paying else paying 80% of a new stadium..

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

@PTC DAWG1 It's less than that, or did you not read the article?  Your math must still be bad after the Falcons CHOKED in the Superbowl.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Another tough weekend, Schultz? 

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

You'll have to sell your Mercedes just to buy a ticket to see the Buzzards lose.

Myrtle B. Lewis
Myrtle B. Lewis



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Connie_
Connie_

I'm making $86 an hour working from home. I was shocked when my neighbor told me she was averaging $95 but I see how it works now. I feel so much freedom now that I'm my own boss.

This is what I do>>>>>>http://www.fl-y.com/get-online-jobs


HotDawg
HotDawg

I've been to plenty of events that were affordable.

World class events, concerts, championships, some of the greatest sports events in history, etc.

I've never had to pay such prices, that pros, colleges, concerts promoters want today.

I can understand adjusting for inflation. That is understandable.

But most of this crap today is what we used to call highway robbery.

You want to say supply and demand?

I can say go ahead suckers.

HotDawg
HotDawg

I'm supposed to feel sorry for a billionaire?

And thank him with my life savings, by buying a PSL, because he bought the team and will make hundreds of millions more?

Love our sports teams. But damn if you think I owe you a dime.

Bankerdawg53
Bankerdawg53

So Arthur convinces Atlanta fans to help him pay his mortgage (PSLs) and then he charges the same Altanta fans rent (season tickets) for the house he built. Yeah, the market is what the market is. Unfortunately for long time Falcon fans, corporate Atlanta will be entertaining their Clients that happen to be from NY, Chicago, Boston and everywhere else but Atlanta. Home games will never be the same. But take heart...it is the Falcons, two Super Bowls in 50 years. The markets will adjust. Trust me, I have been watching this product since Nobis was a rookie.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Hey Jeff. Read this in print this morning. 61,000 PSLs. 71,000 seats. Are 10,000 freebies?

E983
E983

I'm one that lost my tickets because I can't afford the PSL. 25 years as a season ticket holder got me nothing.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Sorry, man. That hurts.

I truly understand.

PTC DAWG1
PTC DAWG1

500 bucks? You can swing that

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

Enjoy your $2 hotdog after paying $20,000 for your seat.

What a BARGAIN!!!

slewis1952
slewis1952

A psl is good for 30 years, not one. You can finance it for up to 10 years. Yes you also pay for tickets but the price is frozen the first 3 years. Sure its expensive but there are those who gripe about a coke that is overpriced by a dollar. I have been to everything that ever meant anything when it comes to the Falcons. I have swore I would never go back and I did. I go with friends, sit with friends, and jump up and down with friends. I understand all side but to me, its worth every penny.

HotDawg
HotDawg

You're allowed to waste your money.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

@slewis1952 After the first 3 years, watch the season ticket costs double.  Oh wait, they already did compared to the last stadium!  And get ready to be told to sit down and shut up by all the corporate morons that bought all the seats. All thanks to your Atlanta Buzzards!

ATLMike
ATLMike

Schultz and Bradley---get comped tickets in luxury press suites, free food, drinks, parking....---then they complain about falcons fans not buying tickets and expensive PSLs! Classic.

OH:IO
OH:IO

@ATLMike


Limousine Liberals. Do as I say, not as I do. 

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

Going to a Falcons game is not a necessity first and foremost let's clear that up because the article was a bit soppy with the poor fans who expected to be able to purchase club level seats in MBS for the same price as the Dome. Second yes it is an investment and certainly on that would paid back each season but putting ones tickets up for certain games so I'm not buying that on can't afford the PSL when it can be financed and certainly paid off without much in interest charges. Finally you can take up the additional funding from the hotel more tax with the Legislature who renewed it but the notion that the tax paying public would simply vote to reallocate all that money to other things like education may be a bit of a fallacy. We in the southeast traditionally have had the lowest prices for tickets but it was PSLs or asking for a larger tax contribution which in 2010 was a non starter so sit back at home or if you want at MBS and enjoy the product

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

@ATLAquarius Without much interest?  You realize you're defending paying interest for a seat at a football game, right?  Moron.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Free PSL's for ALL! 

John53
John53

Go to the high school state championship games in the new stadium in December. You will pay a bargain price to see four games per day and get to enjoy the new concession stand prices.

ATLMike
ATLMike

@John53 At those games, they will jack up the prices of all concessions.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Why? My high school sucked.

They won't be there

GT71
GT71

I hate to have to be the one to tell Schultz - the ever-concerned, ever hand-wringer - that over 99% of NFL viewers do so through this new thing called 'TV'. As a person who gets a paycheck from a 'paper', this may come as a surprise. Yes, Davey-boy, most of us have NEVER been able to afford a season ticket to a NFL (or any other pro sport) game.   You see, that's the way it works in a capitalistic society.   We know you just HATE that - but dude, that's the way it is.   But there's a bright side for those not able to attend games - our hotdogs cost about $.25 each, our beer is nearby and costs about $1 and our recliners cost practically nothing and all we have to put up with are thousands of ads which can be muted or, with a TV controller and DVR, sped through (the sponsors hate that but can't think of a way around it - yet).   And we don't have to wade into the jungle - literally a jungle - that is downtown ATL, don't have to pay exorbitant prices to park our cars, don't have to be afraid for our purses and even our lives getting to and from the Sci-Fi scenery of Artie's new city tax paid stadium.   The Falcons will find another 5-6000 suckers to plunk down the dough, so don't get your liberal head into a tizzy about pricing for NFL seats.   It will make your little snowflake brain hurt.  Go walk your dog and think kum-ba-ya thoughts about the perfect world where we all have great seats for all events for FREE, never have to work for our livelihoods and never have to actually mingle with the miserable, noisome crowds....you know, those people known as newspaper writers.



DawgNole
DawgNole

@GT71: "Yes, Davey-boy, most of us have NEVER been able to afford a season ticket to a NFL (or any other pro sport) game."

_____________

Who's "Davey-boy"???

DUH.

Thought you GT guys were supposed to smart.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

That jungle is hosting a Superbowl in 2019. You and your small penis can stay in the burbs, since you're so scared of the city.

HotDawg
HotDawg

How the hell have you been, DawgNole?

Good to see you in the comments!

Falcons2013
Falcons2013

I had tickets every year the Falcons were in the dome and before. My 150 dollar tickets four rows behind the bench would now require 40k psl and 350 ticket price. It is insane. The home experience has become too attractive to justify the incompetence in moving traffic downtown on game days, the incompetence getting people into the building so that it doesn't fill up until the second quarter, the crazy cost and having to buy meaningless preseason games. Hey Arthur, once I'm home on my couch why watch the Falcons. I can watch red zone. And the hot dogs are less than two dollars. And I won't miss the first half of the late games trying to get home. And on a Monday night game I won't home at 1:30 am with a job to get up for on Tuesday. If I want to go to a game I can always go to StubHub and no matter the price it will be far less than psls and season tix with no commitment. Many years the Falcons have been a soft ticket. Oh and by the way....you thought there were too many visiting fans requiring piped in sound? It will be far worse now with corporate crowd in best seats pushing out real fans. Expect empty corporate seats or worse majority of visiting fans. This previously loyal season ticket holder now will watch occasionally if there is interesting game on tv. Hmmmm actually I could buy a tv for the cost you wanted for one preseason gone. I'm out!!!

GT71
GT71

@Falcons2013  Wasted my time - shoulda just let you do it.  Selah...

HotDawg
HotDawg

I remember $30 lower level, sideline seats during the Super Bowl season of '98.

What's the inflation price 20 years later??? Crazy shiiiii t

HotDawg
HotDawg

How much have Sports/Falcons prices gone up compared to most Americans income being stagnated, in same time periods?

As our Great President would say....."HUGE"!

E.J. Trey Alverson
E.J. Trey Alverson

@HotDawg Yeah, but the Smiths were in charge then and they ran the team like a dysfunctional but loving family... Uncle Art does it different. He's always been all about those greenbacks... Sideline Art would be pretty uniformly despised in this town if he didn't have Liberty Media and the Spirit Group/Ressler keeping the owner bar so low you need a backhoe to find it. 

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

@Falcons2013 One correction: those seats you're talking about have a $45,000 PSL, not $40,000.  But what's a few thousand dollars to Greedy Arthur anyway?  Maybe that's enough for him to get a shoe shine.

midtown-Mark
midtown-Mark

In a metro area such as Atlanta, the secondary market is often the consumer's friend.  For plenty of games, tickets should be available for well below what the seller paid.

E.J. Trey Alverson
E.J. Trey Alverson

@midtown-Mark Well, that's certainly been the case recently for the Hawks and Braves... Coming off a Super Bowl with a new stadium might make it tough to get a Falcons ticket for a few years.... Now, the Hawks... I canceled my season tix this summer (not down with Schlenk's rebuild). Hawks season tickets were already WAY cheaper than Falcons season tix/PSLs. This season Hawks tickets are going to be going for less than $40 consistently on the second hand market. 

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

@midtown-Mark Secondary market tickets are almost twice face value in some sections.  Everyone but the owner and the league are getting hosed, just to watch the Buzzards lose.

DawgNole
DawgNole

"But it would be a worthy gesture for a fan base that has suffered through more bad years than good ones."

_____________

In the interest of accuracy, better make that "MANY more bad years than good ones."

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

That damn accuracy just freaks you out, doesn't it, loser?

Maybe you should try it sometime.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Unfortunately, there's really no way to resolve this issue. Was a season ticket holder through the first 8 years of Arthur's tenure and eventually got priced out. I wasn't happy about it, but I understood. It happens. It should be hard to get a ticket when the product is doing well. Just like it should be easier when the product sucks. The great thing about the NFL (for now anyway) is that the games are easily accessible and are the best produced broadcasts of any sport (sight lines, action coverage). If this does end up hurting the fan base in a measurable way, they will have to adapt to get fans back. That's how the market works.