Vikings season ticket holders will pay for ‘more robust fan experience’ with seat licenses

The "Stadium Builder's License Program," which necessitates the purchase of personal seat licenses for fans wishing to buy tickets in every section of the new Vikings stadium save for some of its lowest-profile seating, will cover $125 million of the Vikings' $477 million private contributions to the $975 million stadium.

Courtesy: Minnesota Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS — Officials overseeing the Vikings’ much-discussed personal seat license program have one central message for any peeved fans out there.

You’ll get what you’re paying for.

"It’s just a reality of building a new stadium in today’s times and the cost to do so," said Vikings vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer Steve LaCroix. "We wanted to make sure that the amenities for the fan experience was much more robust than what we’ve had for 32 years.

"That’s where, I think, the difference is gonna come."

Alongside officials from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment unveiled Friday specific plans and parameters for the stadium’s "Stadium Builder’s License Program," which necessitates the purchase of personal seat licenses for fans wishing to buy tickets in every section of the venue save for some of its lowest-profile seating.

All told, the program will cover $125 million of the Vikings’ $477 million private contributions to the $975 million stadium, which is under construction and scheduled for completion in time for the 2016 football season. About 49,400 seats in the stadium will require a PSL, leaving roughly 12,000 — all in the structure’s highest upper-bowl sections — that don’t.

The Vikings define what they’re calling a Stadium Builder’s License as a "one-time contribution that grants season ticket members the right to control their seats for a defined term as long as they continue to purchase Vikings season tickets." Essentially, fans with season tickets anywhere outside of the new stadium’s upper extended corners must also pay a sizeable, one-time fee on top of their tickets.

Based on location, that will range anywhere from $500-$9,500 per seat.

Minnesota will be the 18th professional franchise to use such a program to help finance stadium construction. The average PSL price is listed at $2,500, and about 80 percent of seats with a PSL are priced at $3,000 or less.

Of the 18 NFL franchises to use a PSL program for their current home gridirons, the Vikings rank 10th in total revenue sought. That fact and a state-of-the-art, glass-encased structure with features not seen in the Metrodome — or many places around the NFL, the Vikings promise — are hoped to offset the financial hit fans are being asked to take.

"I do think it’s a Minnesota program," MSFA chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said following a press briefing Friday at the 1010 Metrodome Square Building, across from the new stadium’s construction site. "We tried to make sure we had lower prices than the PSL programs that have been done in other areas, so I do think it’s appropriate for Minnesota."

Said LaCroix: "We think the fan experience is gonna be unlike anything that our fans really realize is coming. It’s gonna be a completely different gameday experience, and we think the seat license program will be a better fit our fans when they see all the different amenities tied to it."

But some members of a fan base already helping contribute to a $498 million public funding pool — $348 million state, $150 million city — and forking out hundreds of dollars per home game have been up in arms about paying any additional fees. Governor Mark Dayton expressed last fall his displeasure with the program, but by then he and all other involved parties had signed off on legislation that specifically allows the PSL program to aid the Vikings in their financial burden for the stadium.

"This private contribution is your responsibility, not (fans’)," Dayton said in a Nov. 13 letter to team owner Zygi Wilf. "I said this new stadium would be a ‘people’s stadium,’ not a ‘rich people’s stadium.’ I meant it then, and I mean it now."

But on the PSL sales will go, starting in the next two weeks with current season ticket holders. Officials mapped out 16 different "transition zones" in the old Metrodome, beginning with the highest-quality and most expensive seating and ending with the least. Starting with the first, the Vikings will contact season ticket holders in each zone until all of them are reached.

Fans that don’t currently have season tickets will then be allowed to jump in and purchase them along with a PSL.

If fans choose, season-ticket renewals and the corresponding PSL purchase can carry over directly from the Metrodome to the new stadium; spectators that don’t desire to re-up for the next two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium can still purchase a PSL for 2016, then renew their season tickets during that preceding offseason.

The Vikings will spend the next two years at TCF, the University of Minnesota’s outdoor football stadium usually reserved for the Gophers.

"We didn’t want to penalize anyone," LaCroix said.

Fans buying PSLs may pay for them up front or make a down payment and finance them interest-free until the new stadium is built. Once the venue opens, they’ll be charged interest.

Holders of PSLs are allowed to transfer ownership — for whatever price, if any, they choose — any time after the stadium’s first season of existence. The licenses are good for the life of the stadium lease (initially 30 years), so long as their holders continue to renew their season tickets.

In return, fans with PSLs receive the exclusive right to their seats for all Vikings home games, the first right to buy playoff tickets and the opportunity to purchase single-game tickets before the general public can.

The most expensive PSLs cover seats in the field club section directly behind the Vikings’ bench where players enter the field. The cheapest are for the first few sections in the stadium’s upper corners, directly in front of the non-PSL seats.

Holding roughly 65,400 fans, the new stadium will have considerably more club space, restrooms, concession stands, televisions and other creature comforts than its predecessor did. Two giant, high-definition videoboards totaling 12,560 square feet will also be part of the indoor scenery.

It all comes at a cost, though.

"If people want to be a part of the Vikings’ season and the Vikings game, then they buy a seat license," Kelm-Helgen said. "But they’ll be able to come to the stadium for all the other events, hundreds of events that we do all year, and it’ll be the people’s stadium or all of Minnesota throughout the year.

"I feel comfortable that this works for us."

The Vikings’ $125 million PSL program is the least expensive of the past five NFL stadiums to be erected. The Dallas Cowboys asked fans for 651 million additional dollars (adjusted for 2016 inflation) in their 80,000-seat fortress called AT&T Stadium, while the 49ers’ Levi Stadium, set for opening this fall, used an inflation-adjusted $500 million PSL program.

Jason Gonella, executive director of new stadium sales for Van Wagner — which the Vikings retained in 2012 to help in marketing and revenue plans for the project — said the Vikings’ project size most closely compares to Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, completed in 2003. That cost fans an inflation-adjusted $86 million in PSL money.

Purple-clad diehards on a tight budget might call it a necessary evil. Those instituting it say it’s a necessary benefit.

"There’s certainly a trend in the NFL," Gonella said. "This has been going on for over 20 years, probably. It’s a standard NFL financing mechanism for a new stadium similar to the way this one’s structured here."

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