This story was updated at 6:15 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 15, 2011, to include the text of an email to season ticket holders from the Redskins.
Long considered a sports franchise with some of the most passionate fans, the Washington Redskins are showing that even they’re vulnerable to the fickle winds of the economy and the NFL lockout.
The team recently tried and failed to sell about 10,000 season tickets to fans who are part of what the team says is a 200,000-name waiting list, and they have subsequently taken the extraordinary step of ripping up the seats to make additional room at FedEx Field. For the time being, the upper deck spaces at both ends of the stadium, where the seats were located, will remain empty, but the team was considering putting party decks there for standing-room accommodations in time for the 2012 season.
FedEx Field’s capacity will shrink from just under 92,000 to 82,000 starting this season, once the current lockout is lifted.
“The people on the waiting list are being offered to buy seats. And we have the seats available for them,” Lon Rosenberg, vice president of Operations for FedEx Field, told ESPN Radio 980 this week, according to a transcript published by the Washington Post. “These are seats that they were not wanting to buy, and they were asking to be kept on the waiting list ’til better seats opened up.”
Rosenberg said the decision to remove the seats was to make room for either the party decks or other stadium upgrades, and not because of the unsold seats. Like several NFL teams, the Redskins stopped trying to sell season tickets after the lockout was imposed, but the team was unable to move those tickets prior to that.
The team’s waiting list remains in effect, and in an email to season ticket holders late today, July 15, the Redskins clarified its position concerning the removal of the seats and reiterated the status of its waiting list. See the text below.
The team’s inability to sell these remaining tickets comes as a bit of a surprise, even though lots of sports teams and NASCAR are feeling the pinch from the still-slow economy. With a 200,000-name waiting list, and the team’s lack of shyness when it comes to selling season tickets to brokers, one would think the team would not have a problem moving the seats.
But, it appears that the controversy from the team’s past practice of selling tickets to brokers might have indirectly played a role in the team’s difficulty in selling those tickets. TicketNews spoke to one broker, who wished to remain anonymous but has bought dozens of tickets from the team before, who said his company was never contacted about any of the 10,000 seats.
“They never called us. Other NFL teams have spoken to us, but not the Redskins,” he said.
The text of the email to season ticket holders states:
Dear Redskins Fan,
We are writing to clear up some recent confusion in the media regarding the status of our season ticket Wait List. Please rest assured that your name remains on the list, and that this is the only way to obtain Redskins general admission season tickets. We continue to have one of the largest season ticket Wait Lists in the NFL, and we are one of just a few teams that has a Wait List at all.
Because of the labor dispute between the League and the Players Association, in February of this year we discontinued most of our efforts to sell season tickets. We did not want to put our fans in the position of having to buy tickets with a lockout imminent or risk losing their place on the Wait List. This gave us the opportunity to commence our Upper Level renovation project with our energy partner NRG, which will include solar panels as part of our effort to make FedExField one of the leaders in “going green”.
For 2011, this project will reduce stadium capacity through the removal of thousands of seats that our fans have told us are the least desirable in the stadium. This renovation will improve your game day experience by reducing traffic into and out of stadium parking lots, creating shorter lines for escalators and restrooms, and allowing easier access to concessions. We are continuing the planning process with our engineers and architects for party decks in the Upper Level, and we hope to finish that process and provide you with more details by late this year. We are confident that when this process is complete, all of our fans will regard it as a major improvement to FedExField.
Thank you for your patience and support in this unusual year. Feel free to call the Ticket Office at 301-276-6033 if you have any questions. We look forward to having you join the team and become a season ticket holder over the next few seasons.
Hail to the Redskins!