Personal seat licenses ahead for 49er fans

September 3, 2010 7:38:06 PM PDT
Although it is not without its controversy, there is excitement building around the 49ers possible move to a new stadium. However, there are some details that may have been overlooked.

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney examined what 49er's seat licenses might look like.

The 49ers organization says it has been up front by telling their long-time season ticket holders that seat licenses were coming, but that doesn't mean the reality has sunk in.

The 49er's online video is big and bold.

"Montana, touchdown!" a voice exclaims as the video looks back on an incredible past and forward to a bright future in a new stadium. It is enough to give many longtime fans goose bumps.

Al Anolik is a longtime fan, but it nearly gives him a conniption.

"I've come to 7 On Your Side to say, 'All you 49er fans, look what they are trying to do to us,'" he says.

Anolik's office is packed with 49er memorabilia and he and his associates' season tickets go all the way back to the Kezar Stadium days. He has never paid a seat license fee and never planned too until he read the latest paperwork that came with his season tickets.

"Even though all these years they've promised you buy your season tickets, good year, bad year, you get the same seats next year," he says. "This year, they're telling us we have no expectations that we're going to have any seats. We have no equitable right."

ABC7 Sports Director Larry Beil says, "Welcome to the economics of professional sports."

Beil says he is neither a defender nor a detractor of the practice, but points out that it is widespread in today's world.

"If they're going to put down $1 billion to build a stadium, they have to finance it. The raw numbers say there's only a certain number of ways to finance it and one of those ways, in the modern era, is personal seat licenses," he explains.

The 49ers call the licenses "SBLs" for "Stadium Builders Licenses." The organization declined an interview, saying that the selling of licenses is a long way off. They did say that all dollars from the stadium builder's license would go towards the funding and maintenance of the building and that none of the revenue would go to the 49ers. They also said that key elements of a successful SBL are that they last a lifetime and are transferrable. Theirs would be both. They also added that season ticket holders were informed in 2007 about SBLs in a personal letter.

SBLs can deliver a lot and potentially cost a lot. So, are they an investment?

"Are we talking the 49ers of the 80s or are we talking the 49ers of the mid 90s?" asks Mark Silverman the time share columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.

Although seat licenses have been compared to timeshares, he sees them more like a condominium.

"I can sell my tickets. I can give my tickets away. But, I have complete control over virtually every event at that venue because those are my seats," he says.

So, for those who don't like this set up, is there any recourse? Attorney Mark Britton of Avvo.com says, "Not really."

"Football teams are businesses. They are providing an entertainment service and people become very tied to their football teams. They say, 'I love my football team and my football team loves me.' They do, to the extent that it keeps money coming in the doors," he says.

So, now you know for good, for bad.

"I haven't heard it and if it wasn't for 7 On Your Side, a lot of people wouldn't have heard it. Who reads this?" Anolik asks.

So, how much are these things going to cost? No one is saying, but the New York Giants charged from $1,000 to $20,000 per seat for their licenses. Of course, that doesn't count the cost of the actual tickets which in New York run as high as $750 each.


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