Jets earn $16 million in PSL auction

October 28, 2008 2:05:41 PM PDT
Sold! For $16 million, 620 personal seat licenses for choice spots in the New York Jets' new stadium. Team executives celebrated Tuesday as they announced the results of an unprecedented online PSL auction, though the nine-day sale occurred as the stock market plunged and more than two-thirds of the seats originally up for bid went unpurchased.

"The fact that the Jets have sold this many seats in a brand-new process, I think is absolutely amazing," team owner Woody Johnson told The Associated Press.

Bidding ended Monday night as the team initially auctioned 2,000 PSLs for the exclusive Coaches Club - located near the 50-yard line and behind the Jets' bench - on the ticketing Web site StubHub. It was the first time a U.S. sports team auctioned off PSLs online.

"We thought this was an unprecedented opportunity for fans to buy these seats and they stepped up and bought them," Johnson said. "It kind of validated our thought that there is value to a PSL because people paid a lot of money in the open market in a way that had never been done before."

The average winning bid was $26,000.

Buyers "have the vision to look over this deep valley we're in right now," Johnson said. "They can look out two years and look out for their kids and grandkids that come along and realize that this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy something for the long-term."

The highest bid came in the auction's final hours at $82,000 for front-row seats around the 45-yard line.

"That was the cherry on top," said Matt Higgins, the team's executive vice president of business operations.

The next-highest winning bids were: $65,100, $61,100, $60,500 and $55,500, while the lowest was $10,500.

"In terms of what we did, we're very happy with what occurred, extremely happy," Johnson said.

StubHub, an eBay company, also was pleased with the results of the auction after dealing in the past with fixed pricing for events.

"It was unique and groundbreaking, and that was one thing we knew going in and unlike something StubHub had supported in the past," spokesman Sean Pate said. "It was an extremely huge success for us on a number of levels. Certainly, the overall output from the auction and the results that the Jets realized were very exciting for us."

Pate said the auction became more manageable when the Jets scaled back on the number of PSLs they made available to bid on. "There was literally a surplus of supplies," he said. "Once it was determined that there was a better opportunity to scale it back, the prices shot up and were very healthy."

The Jets were still analyzing data from the auction and were uncertain of the nature of the winning bidders, but believed it was a mix of fans and corporate buyers.

"The types of fans willing to shell out this kind of money are probably secure, or hopefully secure, with their economic futures and what they have and what they can spend," said Jon Greenberg, executive editor of the Chicago-based Team Marketing Report. "These types of deals aren't for everyone. Obviously, they're not for the average fan."

Given the tough economy, some financial analysts said they'd be surprised if most of the winning bidders weren't corporations.

"They use them for marketing and advertising purposes and as an investment," said Bernard Baumohl, managing director of The Economic Outlook Group in Princeton, N.J. "If there was evidence that it was individuals and not mostly corporations that bid that high, I'd be shocked."

The Jets are offering winning bidders five- and 15-year financing plans to pay for all PSLs, including those that have not yet gone on sale. The team is planning to sell the remaining PSLs over the next several months.

The online event was kicked off at an auction preview party Oct. 16 at The Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan, where the winning bid for a pair of PSLs on the 50-yard line was $200,000 per seat.

Winning bidders also have to pay $700 for each Jets game ticket, but they'll have the opportunity to leave their seats in the stands and watch the game from a fenced-off section of the field 5 yards behind the Jets' bench, or from a bar and lounge area directly behind them.

"I think you'll really feel like you're part of the team and you're really going to know the coach, really going to know the team," Johnson said. "This is for the fan who wants the best, expects the best and will be getting the best."

In August, the Jets announced their PSL plan, including for seats that weren't in the auction. They'll cost some season-ticket holders between $4,000 and $25,000, but spares 27,000 upper-level seats from the new fee.

"There were fans that have expressed some feelings initially without really knowing that we've left a third of the stadium PSL-less," Johnson said.

The Giants' most expensive PSLs will be sold at $20,000 per seat, but they are imposing a $1,000 fee for the upper-level seats that are spared in the Jets' plan.