- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The New York Jets had what appeared to be a genius idea. Rather than sell personal seat licenses for their new stadium, they would auction some off and allow market forces to take control. Football is the most popular sport in America, so it seemed like a good way to ensure the team would maximize revenue.

But then the economy went south, and now it appears things aren’t working out quite as well as the Jets had hoped.

The background: The Jets have several premium seating areas at their new stadium, set to open in 2010. The most prized area is known as the Coaches Club, a section near midfield that includes access to a bar and restaurant and a special area at field level just a few feet behind the Jets’ bench. The Jets planned to auction off PSLs on those seats on Stubhub.com while selling the PSLs to other premium areas for $25,000.

So, naturally, the Jets needed the Coaches Club PSLs to average more than $25,000 a pop or they would look foolish.

Things looked promising when bidding started Sunday; a number of PSLs finished with winning bids of more than $60,000. But then things started to shift. Some sold for just $20,000. Then $15,000. Then only $11,000. Overall, it appears the average winning bid could be less than $25,000, meaning the Jets may be forced to lower the price of other premium seating areas. Bidding continues throughout this week.

To be clear, the Jets are still making plenty of money selling seats at the new stadium. The PSLs, keep in mind, are the one-time purchases fans are forced to make before they buy season tickets, which are priced at $700 a game.

“We continue to be pleased with the level of activity and interest in the auction,” Jets spokesman Brice Speight said in a statement.

But the results of the auction suggest fans have a limit, and there are growing indications of a backlash if ticket prices are too high. The NBA, for example, laid off 80 workers, citing an expected slowdown in ticket sales this year. In the District, the Nationals announced last month they would lower some after a full season of seeing whole sections of empty seats.

Good seats to pro sporting events never will come cheap. But the Jets’ auction suggests that when times are tough, even the most rabid fans know when to say when.

SportsBiz shorts

Comcast Sportsnet reported that ratings for the Washington Capitals’ first four games have doubled over the same period last year. The network is averaging a 1.3 rating in the D.C. market, representing 30,000 fans a game. The season opener against Atlanta scored a 1.2 rating, a 140 percent increase over last year’s opener. The Oct. 16 game against the Penguins landed a 1.7 rating, representing nearly 40,000 households. …

Anyone who bet on the Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series back in March has a good chance to clean up. Las Vegas gave the Rays 200-1 odds to win it all before the season started. And now, Vegas has the Rays as minus-150 favorite on the money line, meaning a $1.50 bet would win $1.00. The Phillies, meanwhile, are underdogs at plus-130, meaning a $1.00 bet would win $1.30. …

If any player gets a stolen base during the World Series, Taco Bell will give away free tacos to everyone in America. It’s the second year of the “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promotion. Taco Bell said it gave away “millions” of tacos after Red Sox center fielder Jacob Ellsbury stole a base in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series.

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