- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2001

The Washington Redskins are increasing club-seat and luxury-suite prices at FedEx Field by as much as 140 percent starting in 2002, a move that likely will keep the team among the NFL's costliest to view for the next decade.

Original five-year pacts for both club seats and luxury boxes at the stadium expire after the 2001 season. Contract stipulations created by former owner John Kent Cooke require more than one-year's notice to renew the contracts. The deadline to renew is March 1, and seat and suite holders have been informed of massive changes to the team's price structure.

Club-seat prices will range from $1,800 to $3,200 per season, nearly twice the $995 to $1,995 spread in place during the stadium's 1997 opening. The team does not offer a set price sheet for luxury suites, as many companies negotiate the use of suites as part of a broader sponsorship of the Redskins. Most prices for non-sponsors will range from $90,000 to $250,000 per season, far above the $45,000 to $160,000 spread in use four years ago.

The suite changes are in stark contrast to prices for general seats in both the upper and lower decks at FedEx Field, which will be the same as in 2001.

The new luxury-seat prices will stay in place only for the 2002 season. For the duration of six-, eight-or 10-year contracts the team is offering, the prices will be subject to a 4 percent annual escalation clause. Many pro teams, including the Baltimore Ravens, have similar clauses for their luxury seats.

The Redskins, however, are subjecting luxury-seat holders to an additional 13.3 percent surcharge to cover the Prince George's County, Md., admissions tax. Nearly every other pro team in the country absorbs at least part of local admissions and ticket taxes and does not make it a separate cost.

The moves promise to test a seats waiting list of more than 50,000 names.

In 2000, the Redskins' average ticket price ($64.66) ranked second highest in the league, behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In contrast, the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens ranked 26th ($42.75) in average ticket prices for 2000. The Ravens have yet to announce their 2001 ticket prices.

"Most people, I think, understand the cost of things goes up," Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson said. "And we've worked to provide and improve things in the contract, such as waiter service, that had not been provided for several years."

Meanwhile, the Redskins will visit the University of Richmond today as a possible training-camp site after ending their relationship with Frostburg State University, site of the team's camp from 1995 to 1999.

The Redskins will pay their former host more than $500,000 for the last five years of their 10-year lease that was broken last season when the team summered at Redskin Park. The settlement was less than half what the Redskins owed Frostburg, and came only after college officials asked Maryland Assistant Attorney General John Anderson to intervene.

Team officials said an announcement on the settlement will come today.

The luxury-seat price changes proved a shock to Redskins fans. Some of the 1997 prices are now a significant bargain prime location suites at other new NFL stadiums lease for as much as $325,000 per year. But most seat and suite holders were unprepared for the sheer magnitude of the increases. When club seats were last available in 1999, prices topped out at $2,695 per season.

Hassell and Folks, a Chesapeake, Va., engineering and land-planning firm, and several other Tidewater area businesses lease a 32-seat box in the corner of FedEx Field at $75,000 a year. The Redskins' price for that box starting in 2002 is $180,000 a year, or $90,000 for a 16-seat box. The group declined both offers.

"We're not opposed to an increase. It's a business, and we know we've had a great deal," said Grey Folks, managing partner of Hassell and Folks. "But we're walking away. The return on investment at that price just wouldn't be there. If Dan Snyder can get [$180,000] from someone else, more power to him."

Swanson said about 4,000 of the 15,044 club seats at FedEx Field are up for renewal and will be subject to the new prices. The team must wait for the rest of the contracts to expire in either two, three or five more years to apply price increases.

"Thank goodness, I signed a 10-year deal," said Bill Koenig, a club-seat holder from Bethesda, Md., locked in at $1,395 a year. "I don't think I'll be able to renew after it's up. Between the prices and parking and everything else, it's just getting so overwhelming."

Hampden-Syndey College in Farmville, Va., also has bid to host the training camp, and James Madison University remains interested. The Division III Hampden-Syndey, about 75 miles west of Richmond, has 1,000 students.

The Redskins have toured William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., site of its camp for 32 years. The team also has applied for a zoning permit to train at Redskin Park as an alternative.

William and Mary is considered the early front-runner, though team officials said no decision will be reached for several weeks. Coach Marty Schottenheimer, who wants to relocate to a college campus, said he is impressed with the facilities and its location near the colonial district.

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