- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

The Washington Redskins are asking loyal club-seat ticket holders to forgo the final four seasons of their 10-year contracts and begin accepting steep price increases now.

If those seat holders refuse, they will be subject to a 113 percent price increase in 2007, pushing the cost of each club seat from the peak fixed rate of $1,995 a seat per season to a projected $4,254.

The team's take-it-or-leave-it offer is enraging seat holders in FedEx Field's yellow club section and marks another significant chapter in Dan Snyder's tumultuous ownership of the team.

"I simply don't understand the logic of this," said Allen Bloom of Potomac, a Redskins season-ticket holder since 1966 and now a club-seat holder. "I'm not taking their increase. If they can get [$4,254] for my seat, fine. Let some other sucker pay that. The whole experience of going to a game has gotten so ridiculous anyway."

The long-term ticket holders, all of whom signed their 10-year contracts before the stadium's opening in 1997, have until Jan. 31 to make one of two choices:

•Sign a new 10-year contract and accept an immediate price increase of 38 percent, pushing the price to $2,750 a seat per season. The price in the contract then rises 3 percent each year, reaching $3,588 in 2012.

•Stay with the current contract and pay $1,995 a seat per season through the 2006 season. The price will then jump to $4,254 immediately and rise 5 percent annually to $5,429 in 2012. These latter figures were listed as estimates in a flier recently sent to the club-seat holders. But that same flier also urges the seat holders to "avoid 'sticker-shock' at renewal time."

The prices also correspond to the peak seat locations along the sidelines in the 16,381-seat club section, the largest of its type in the NFL. Other locations in the section, representing about 19 percent of the stadium's capacity, will cost slightly less in either scenario, but the same principle applies.

Current prices for new Redskins club-seat contracts range from $2,000 to $3,400 a seat per season with a minimum commitment of six years. With annual cost-of-living increases embedded into new Redskins club-seat contracts, a standard fixture of club seating in the NFL, that $3,400 upper-end price will also exceed $4,000 a year in 2007.

"I support the team, and I've been going to games for many years. But there comes a time when it becomes a matter of economics," said a club-seat holder who declined to be identified. "Is the cost-benefit still there?"

The Redskins finished the 2002 season with a 7-9 record, its ninth non-playoff year since 1993.

Redskins officials say the club-seat request is not a threat and simply a reward to the stadium's "founding members." The club seats, similar to luxury suites, are sold on a multiyear basis and offer additional amenities such as indoor seating areas and waiter service for food and drink. In its request, the Redskins are also offering to upgrade each yellow plastic club seat with a pad and customizable name plaque.

"This is a loyalty thing," team spokesman Karl Swanson said. "We're offering these people a chance to lock in at today's prices for the next 10 years. If people wait, they're going to be renewing at prices then. The prices have changed since [Jack Kent] Cooke owned the team. What we're doing is allowing people to stay in at a much lower level."

Hefty price increases are nothing new for Redskins fans. Since Snyder purchased the team in 1999, prices for luxury suites and club seats not protected by 10-year contracts were raised by as much as 140 percent. Regular seat prices ranging from $45 to $75 have increased as much as 25 percent. The team has not indicated price plans are for those sections. Costs for parking and concessions have also soared.

The Redskins remain one of the top draws in the NFL, but fans have begun to show their displeasure, foremost in the club-seat section. Since the section was sold out in 1999, keeping the massive space filled has required a continual resale effort. Perks for buying seats have included free tickets to Rolling Stones concerts and autographed Darrell Green jerseys.

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