- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Dan Snyder leaves no dollar uncollected.
No other professional sports team, except the New York Yankees, has been nearly as aggressive in raising prices as the Washington Redskins under Snyder.
A series of price increases by the Redskins' owner during the past few years unprecedented for any team without a recent championship or a new stadium has made attending games at FedEx Field one of the most expensive propositions for fans in all of sports. The increases also provide perhaps the stiffest test yet of the franchise's famously loyal fans.
Since Snyder bought the team in 1999, he has:
Increased the average ticket price 29 percent to $68.06, the second-highest raise in the National Football League.
More than doubled the prices for most luxury suites and club seats.
Raised parking fees from $10 or $15 per car to $20 or $25.
Charged fans $10 to watch practice, a first in NFL history.
Charged fans $10 to park at practices.
Raised the cost of food and drink across the board at FedEx Field.
Raised the price of a game program from $3 to $9.95.
The Redskins asked club seat holders last week to forgo the final four seasons of their 10-year contracts and accept an immediate 38 percent price increase. The new contract also would call for a 3 percent increase each year. Those who decline would be subject to a 113 percent raise if they wished to renew their contracts after they expire in 2007, plus a 5 percent increase each year.
The team billed the take-it-or-leave-it offer as a chance to avoid the "sticker shock" of the larger increase. The move, however, left many fans wondering whether the price increases are justifiable for a team that has been to the playoffs just once since 1993.
"The product just isn't any good," said Bill Koenig, a government procurement consultant from Potomac who has club seats at FedEx Field. He said he probably will not renew his contract after the 2006 season.
"If you're asking these kinds of prices, where are the results? My seats used to be more effective for business entertaining," Mr. Koenig said. "But it's such an ordeal to get out to these games, from a business standpoint, it is getting more difficult to match up people and get them to come out."
Fans who do come out have little to cheer about.
The Cincinnati Bengals are the only team excluding the expansion Houston Texans with fewer playoff appearances than the Redskins since former coach Joe Gibbs, the architect of the franchise's three Super Bowl championships, left after the 1992 season. Only four other teams have just a single playoff appearance in that span, matching the Redskins.
The price increases of the past four years follow a 48 percent jump in average ticket prices and similar increases for parking and concessions that occurred when the team moved from RFK Stadium to the Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in 1997.
To be certain, Snyder and the Redskins will not suffer economically anytime soon.
The franchise is the second-highest revenue producer in professional sports, trailing only the Yankees. The Redskins are buttressed by a waiting list for season tickets that exceeds 80,000 names, a network TV contract that pays the NFL more than $2 billion per year, and a series of hefty, multiyear contracts for sponsorship and local broadcasting.
Snyder's personal wealth is great, as well. Fortune magazine ranked the 38-year-old owner as the sixth-richest American under age 40, with an estimated net worth of $664 million. It is not known how much money he derives from the Redskins each year.
The Redskins rank at or near the top of the list among NFL teams for most expensive tickets, luxury seats, parking, programs, hot dogs and beer. Only the New England Patriots, who moved into a new stadium this season, have a higher average ticket price than the Redskins.
"There a lot of variables, but this is not a typical dynamic," said Dan Migala, editor of Team Marketing Report, a Chicago trade publication that tracks sports team ticket and concession costs. "Most times, you see your biggest price increases when a new facility opens, or when it's tied to a team championship or huge bump in payroll."
The Redskins did increase their payroll sharply in 2000, spending nearly $100 million on a free agent-laden team that finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Since then, payroll and free-agent signings have decreased sharply because of a leaguewide salary cap that limits spending. But the prices at FedEx Field have maintained their upward march.
"It's awfully discouraging. And it's hard to see from so many places in the stadium," said Bud Polsky of Chevy Chase, a season-ticket holder who sits in the upper deck at FedEx Field. "I only went to one game this year. My sons used to like to go quite a bit, but even they don't seem to want to go to games as much. If we don't go much again this season, I'll probably let the seats go."
Redskins officials defended their actions.
"The interest [in the Redskins] is higher than ever," Snyder told CNN last week.
The club level at FedEx Field, the area affected by the team's recent take-it-or-leave-it offer, represents the most visible sign of a weakening love for the Redskins.
The massive section, the largest of its type in the NFL, has been greatly improved under Snyder and includes a large atrium, cigar bars and waiter service. But with prices now starting at $2,000 per season, or $250 per regular season game, selling out the club section and keeping it sold out the past four years has required a continuous sales effort.


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