Cowboys Stadium: Pricing Average Fans Out of the Game

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Cowboys Stadium: Pricing Average Fans Out of the Game
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Yesterday marked the opening of the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. An estimated 60,000 people attended the building's inaugural event; a concert featuring country music legend George Strait. "Jerry World" is officially up and running.

This three-million square-foot marvel of modern technology and engineering is, without question, the premiere sporting venue in the world. On many levels the Cowboys' new home is an answer to years of prayers made by Dallas fans that were in desperate need of some stadium upgrades.

Texas Stadium, despite its tradition and charm, was an outdated relic. It definitely wasn't the best place in the world to watch a football game. That signature hole in the roof allowed God to watch his favorite team play, but it also let the blistering Texas sun roast certain unfortunate fans, depending on the time of day.

Almost 40 years of public restrooms, spilled beer, stale food, and God knows what else had given Texas Stadium a signature odor. The concessions were terrible, and there were not enough bathrooms. The concourse was a sea of people crammed elbow to elbow fighting just to make it to their destination alive.

Long suffering Cowboy fans were overdue for a change of scenery when the franchise broke ground on the new location, and the idea was greeted with much excitement and approval. Perhaps if for no other reason than the air conditioning. But, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.  

For many of these loyal fans who weathered countless days in the searing heat, the new stadium has made attending games a thing of the past. With a fancy new state-of-the-art building comes a hefty price tag. For many middle class Cowboy fans, that price is simply just too high.

The sources of these soaring costs are Personal Seat Licenses. These PSL's are a fee paid by season ticket holders which ensures the right to purchase the same seat for 30 years. In other words, these tickets cost much more than the face value.

The amount of this license varies depending on seat quality and location, and will help to pay a portion of the $1.5 billion dollars it took to build the stadium. Although the individual ticket prices are very competitive, these PSL's drive those prices skyward, and out of the range of your average fan.

For instance, most folks would prefer to sit on either sideline within the first few levels. That's not asking too much. It's not asking for seats right on the 50 yard line, just anywhere along the sideline and below the highest reaches of the building will do.  

At Cowboys Stadium, these are called Club Level seats. Any sideline seat that resides on the first three levels between the goal lines falls under this Club Level heading. Club Level is stadium talk for expensive.

The PSL's for these coveted seats range from $16,000 to $50,000.00. In addition to this lofty fee, tickets in these locations have gone from a maximum of $139 in 2008 to $340 across the board.

What? You don't have the $16,000 to $50,000 needed to purchase the right to purchase the tickets?

Don't worry, the Cowboys will finance that amount over the next 30 years just like your mortgage. You can simply pay $13,960 down and $3,490 a year for the next 30 years in lieu of the entire 50 grand at once.

But remember, that's just the payment for the rights to buy your tickets. The actual tickets will cost you an additional $3,400.00 per year. Of course, those ticket prices are only locked for the first five seasons, and from that point they can rise from time to time.

So if you want to sit in one of the top 15,000 seats available, be ready to pay anywhere between $4,490 and 6,890 per ticket each year for the next 30 years. Or you can just pay the entire PSL up front and pay $3,400.00 a year. Either way, this is a dramatic increase from previous seasons. 

Keep in mind that if you finance that PSL you really end up paying from $32,700 (on a $16k loan) to $118,660 (on a $50k loan) with eight percent interest over 30 years. Over that 30-year period you will spend a total of somewhere between $135,000 and $207,000 for eight football games a year. That's if ticket prices never go over the next 30 seasons.  

That kind of money can fetch you a pretty nice house in the Dallas area.

These PSL's aren't only charged on the most expensive seats either. The End Zone and corner seats in the lowest three sections of the Cowboys Stadium have PSL's that range from $4,000 to $5,000. The ticket prices in these sections are between $89 and $125 per game.

Although these seats are more economical, the buyer either has to pay $4,000 to $5,000 down, or end up on the hook for a 30-year ticket package. The simple fact that people are wondering whether or not to finance their football tickets is mind blowing to me.

For those fans who can't or won't pay PSL's, Cowboys Stadium offers season tickets in the upper bowl for only $590.00. But that's actually only in the corners of the upper bowl. These seats are between the end zones and sidelines way up at the top of the stadium.  

Sideline tickets in the "nose bleed" section also have PSL's ranging between $2,000 and $12,000. The $12,000 PSL's apply to the 1,200 seats that make up the first six rows of the 400's section that are along the sideline. These tickets are also $125 per game, but at least they come with cushy "Club Style Seating."

At these heights, the 53 yard long and 20 yard high HD video boards will really come in handy. Fans will be able to watch the game on this big screen instead of straining to watch what seems to be one of those 1970's electric football games below.

But at this point, I'd have to be asking myself why I'm not at home watching the game on television for free.

The only way to get around PSL's is to go through a ticket broker of some sort. Be it Stub Hub or EBay, there are chances to get single game or season ticket packages without purchasing the licenses. But you will pay much more than face value for this privilege.

The basic rule of thumb would be to take the regular season ticket price and double it, but in some cases it will be triple. These ticket brokers are passing down the PSL cost on the secondary market, and prices are soaring.

Season tickets in the Club Seats are anywhere from $6,500 to $20,000 per seat for 2009 on sites like StubHub. This is a dramatic increase from last season, and is a direct effect of Personal Seat Licenses.

I've gone to numerous Cowboys' games over the last three years. Single game tickets in the lower bowl ranged between $100 and $400 per seat on the secondary market depending on location. Those same seats are listed for $275 to $4,000 each in the new stadium.

Loyal Cowboy fans are being tossed aside for corporations, ticket companies, and the four percent of NFL fans who earn more than $200,000.00 per year, and can afford to pay for these PSL's. There will be plenty of fans who will either see the game from a much higher vantage point, or will simply decide to start watching from home.

I'm afraid that the rowdy, semi-intoxicated, Dallas die-hards who used to be able to get a decent ticket to the game are being phased out.These fans are the most vocal and play a vital role in making the stadium very loud. These are the type of fans that provide the home-field advantage on which teams depend.

In their place will be the doctors, lawyers, corporate execs, and wealthy few who can afford to shell out thousands upon thousands of dollars to attend football games. These folks aren't exactly the most vocal bunch at a game by any means.

Gone are the shirtless fanatics with face paint and noisemakers. The loudest most dedicated fans will now be segregated to the upper sections, or just might figure out that the view is better from the couch.

Make way for the golf clapping yuppies who pay more attention to their blackberries than the game. And those empty seats you see in the lower bowl during the 4th quarter? Those folks have just gone to the Silver Club or Cowboy Club to refill their martini's and watch the conclusion from the plushness of the lounge.

Jerry Jones, kiss your home-field advantage goodbye.

I'm glad that the Cowboys got a new stadium, but I'm heartbroken that I can no longer get a good ticket at a reasonable price. Maybe someday I'll climb far enough up the corporate ladder to get the company tickets in the same sections that I have been a season ticket holder in the past.

But sure enough, I'd just get kicked out for standing up or yelling too loud in front of the nobility.

For now, I will do what many other Cowboy fans are doing. I will adjust to watching the games at home. Where the beer is cheap, the parking is free, and if you set close enough, my HDTV seems to be 53 yards wide.

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