Remember the flap over the big price tag the Vikings were putting on the best seats in the new stadium under construction in downtown Minneapolis?
Well, those seats are gone.
"For all intents and purposes we're basically sold out of those," says Jason Gonella, with Van Wagner, the advertising and consulting firm that the Vikings hired to market the season tickets and personal seat licenses to fans. They started with sales of the priciest seats, in the luxury "Field Club" right on the field and the premium "Valhalla Club" right above it.
"We released 100 Field Club seats this past Monday. You know, whenever we put inventory out there, we blow right through it," Gonella says.
The team said this week that it has wrapped up sales of the two most expensive areas in the stadium, to so-called Zone 1 and Zone 2 season ticket holders. They're the top-end seats that come with personal seat license fees up to $9,500. The team is expecting to sell $125 million worth of the seat licenses: they're the one-time up-front fees the team is collecting from fans. The fans will own the seats for the lifetime of the stadium, although they have to buy tickets for each game. The team is using the seat licenses to pay part of its $500 million pledge toward construction of the new facility.
The fees prompted outrage when the Vikings first announced them back in 2012, particularly from Gov. Mark Dayton.
But the Vikings say that they've already sold $30 million worth of seat licenses in just seven weeks, most of the $37 million they hoped to sell this year. Gonella, with Van Wagner, says three-quarters of the season ticket holders they've invited in for a preview of the place have opted to buy in, and four out of five of those are buying premium "club seats" that include access to luxury lounges, high-end amenities like food and drinks and even complementary parking.
Marcus Genzlinger is one of the fans that bought those seats. He's a marketing consultant who lives in St. Louis Park, who bought four tickets in the Vahalla Club with $28,000 in seat licenses.
"I think it was a shock because the model that currently existed was disappearing, and suddenly, you're having to pay for a different model," said Genzlinger, whose family has had tickets since 1961. "But again, going back, reviewing the experience, the upgrades they were providing, I think it made me realize that there's another way to look at it, and that was positively."
Some paid even more. Tina Anderson is a film producer from Los Angeles who grew up in football family in southwest Minneapolis. Her grandfather was a sales manager for Hubbard Broadcasting who bought tickets when the Vikings came to town. She put up nearly $40,000 for seat licenses, and will pay another $400 a game for tickets to each seat.
It's a lot of money and Anderson says she really can't afford to fly to Minneapolis and sit in the seats very often. "Truth be told, I won't be able to afford to go to more than one or two games a year," she says. But she bought the top end Field Club tickets and says she thinks it'll be the kind of experience fans like her dream of. "Because the experience they're creating in that club: so you're down there, and the players run through to get to the field? That's kind of cool."
Tom Moudry is an advertising executive in Minneapolis and another member of a long time Vikings season ticket holding family. He says the promise of a better seats and amenities than in the Metrodome, was part of the reason his firm bought premium club seats. He also believes in the project itself, that the new stadium will improve downtown, help build community and be good for business.
"I guess all those heady things factored into me writing a very big check with my hand shaking while I wrote it," Moudry says.
But the finances of the new stadium have left some hard feelings, too.
Tod Knudson grew up in the Twin Cities and lives in Florida now, but has kept up the season tickets his father first bought more than 50 years ago. He says the team wanted nearly $40,000 dollars for the seat licenses, and gave him an ultimatum earlier this month. He turned them down.
"This is really just a bad thing that they're doing, the way they're handling it, and its going to drive a lot of people like myself out of going to Vikings games," says Knudson. He thinks the cost and take-it-or-leave-it sales are going to change the fan experience at Vikings games, to a more corporate, less family friendly.
Others are more sanguine about the loss.
Melanie Baumhover and her husband Mark are architects who live in Apple Valley. Like others, her tickets go back generations in her family.
"We bought this year's season at TCF and may or may not buy next year's at TCF. Carrying on the family legacy of season tickets since the beginning of the Vikings is not something we give up lightly, but we have many other family financial priorities," she says. "The Vikings have pointed out that we could drop down to relatively cheaper seat sections, but at that point we don’t really see the value: why lock into low-end seats and still pay a chunk of money? We would rather just buy one ticket a year in good seats. You could say our fan loyalty has undergone the five stages of grief and we now accept that the Vikings have chosen to find ticket-buyers with more money."
That search is ongoing. The team says it is now opening up the remaining premium seat sales to the rest of its season ticket holders.
Here's the nitty gritty of the details on the seat licenses, which will be required for about three quarters of the seats in the stadium.
Other details from the program for the 65,400 seat stadium:
49,500 seats will have licenses
More than 2,300 seats will have a $500 seat license
10,000 seats will be priced at $1,000 or less
41,000 seats have an average price of less than $2,000
80 percent of seat licenses will cost $3,000 or less
89 percent of seat licenses will cost less than $5,000
Only 2,400 seats will have a license over $7,000
Seat licenses for club seats, with access to exclusive lounges and other amenities, will average $5,300
Seat licenses are only for Vikings homes games, no other events
Seat licenses will not apply to the Super Bowl, even if the Vikings are playing in it
Fans can pay in installments, with 1/3 due at signing, 1/3 on July 1, 2015 and 1/3 on July 1, 2016
Financing at “market interest rates” can be extended through 2021
Editors Note: This story initially misidentified Tom Moudry.