The Minnesota Vikings are well on their way to raising one fifth of the team's $500 million share of the new stadium's cost.
Fans already have purchased nearly two thirds of the pricey seat licenses the Vikings are selling for the $1 billion stadium. So far, fans have purchased more than 30,000 of the licenses, paying more than $80 million to the team.
Three quarters of the 65,400 seats will require the licenses, which went on sale nine months ago. They range in price from $500 to $9,500 a seat.
"We'd originally budgeted to do just around $35 million for the year, so to be at this level so early in the game just speaks volumes for how dedicated the fan base is here, and people really stepped up," said Jason Gonella, a vice president of Van Wagner Sports, the marketing firm the Vikings hired to sell the so called "stadium builder licenses."
When the team initially rolled out the plan, the fees sparked outrage by some fans and a rebuke from Gov. Mark Dayton. They said the team was double dipping by relying on taxpayer subsidies and steep fees for fans. Many fans said they were giving up their long-held season tickets for the team.
In response, Vikings officials said their license program followed NFL protocol. They also said their market research said fans would buy them.
More than half the league's teams use them to help fund stadiums, and the Vikings fees are below the average across the NFL, where the cost for some seats for some teams can approach $100,000.
Vikings officials also told fans that the licenses give them exclusive rights to their seats and priority for playoff games. They can be sold on the open market, offering fans the opportunity to recoup at least some of their investment. Other teams' licenses have gained value at times.
"This is a modest program, compared to other programs in the NFL," said Lester Bagley, said the team's vice president for stadium development. "It's been hard work to bring the fans along."
Vikings officials say they're confident the licenses will sell out and the team has so far has only tapped the original ticket base from the Viking's Metrodome days. A group of 6,000 fans that signed up for season tickets at the team's temporary TCF Bank Stadium home will be offered licenses next.
"The exclusivity for those original season ticket members expires in January, and so, in the spring of 2015, we'll open up sales to the general public," Bagley said.