Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons.
The Atlanta Falcons will open the $1.5-billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta this month, doing so without offering single-game tickets for a distinct reason: “We have personal seat licenses (PSL).” Steve Cannon, CEO of the Arthur M Blank Group, which operates the new stadium, said that selling single-game tickets on the primary market “undermines the value” of the PSLs. “We are coming from the Georgia Dome into Mercedes-Benz Stadium and it is a PSL stadium, an ownable asset to our fan base,” he says. “They own a seat. We went to great lengths to make it affordable.”
The least expensive PSL is $500, financeable over 10 years at $50 per year, which equates to $5 per game. With the least expensive season-ticket at $55, Cannon says a fan’s all-in price per game is $60. “For a story that says we are taking affordable access out of the market, that could not be further from the truth,” he says. Mercedes-Benz Stadium has 15 percent of its ticketed inventory in the $55-to-$75 per game range.
Cannon adds that not only does a single-ticket sale undermine the value of a PSL, it also allows a robust, healthy resale market for those who want to sell their PSL. “If you have a la cart sales you will undermine values of PSLs,” he says.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium will seat 71,000 at its standard configuration, expandable to 75,000. Cannon says they aren’t disclosing the number of tickets available in PSLs, as some are held back for other programs, but that they have sold 92 percent of them.
The most recent National Football League (NFL) team to open a new building, the Minnesota Vikings in 2016, have a different setup for single-ticket options. Legislation passed in 2012 required the Vikings to make 3,250 tickets at U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, available on a single-game basis and priced no higher than 80 percent of the lowest-priced season ticket. “In addition to that provision, we believe in this market, the best approach is to have a solid mix of season tickets, multigame packages and single-game tickets to provide options for Vikings fans,” says Jeff Anderson, team spokesperson.
The Falcons will ensure single-game access in other ways. “The most obvious is Ticketmaster,” Cannon says about the NFL Ticket Exchange secondary market. Cannon says, as of Aug. 7, that single-game tickets were available for $40 for a preseason game against Arizona—the first NFL game inside the new venue—and four regular-season games had $90-tickets available. While the market fluctuates based on demand, Cannon expects the exchange to serve as the primary single-game access point.
At the same time, team owner Arthur Blank created a variety of more select opportunities for single-game access, including group and community sales, the Rise Up and Share foundation that offers—“in the high hundreds”—tickets available to local coaches and athletes and programs that get tickets into the hands of military families and those who otherwise couldn’t afford tickets.
As the Falcons approach the season, Cannon says they will also utilize the stadium’s expandable seating for far more than big events such as the Super Bowl and the Final Four. “If certain games have excess demand, we could deploy any portion of the three (expandable sections),” Cannon says. “We could deploy all three or just one or two. We will make the decisions based on demand.”
One area the Falcons haven’t finalized, but Cannon says will turn into reality, comes in standing-room-only tickets, starting with the Sept. 17 regular-season home-opener against Green Bay. “The building has so many gathering spots with direct views into the bowl,” Cannon says. He cites the nine neighborhood bars, all on concourses with views into the bowl, and the two sky bridges, as the ideal gathering places for Standing Room Only (SRO)-ticket holders.
Cannon says they know that they could sell several thousand SRO tickets and enhance the in-game experience by crowding the bars and adding “energy and noise” into the building, but will start the program in a manageable way for the Green Bay (Wis.) Packers game.
The Falcons hope to keep the SRO and expandable tickets out of the hands of brokers, so they plan to release them at some point the week before a game, limit the number of tickets available to each fan and require in-person sales at two Atlanta locations, including at the stadium.
For the 60,000 to 70,000 fans with PSLs, they will have two options for using the tickets in a paperless environment. All season-ticket holders will receive—they are in the mail as of Aug. 7—their own RFID card with all the games stored on that card, which they can bring to a game on a lanyard. To make it easy to transfer or sell tickets, the Falcons also allow fans to upload a ticket to Ticketmaster, creating a fully mobile ticket experience for non-PSL fans and the option to go mobile or RFID for PSL holders.
Once inside, the Falcons will not go cashless, but as part of the team’s progressive concession plan will use a whole-dollar pricing strategy for all food and beverage items in the stadium to increase speed of service and transaction time.