The Washington Redskins' first home playoff game in eight years, scheduled for this Saturday at FedEx Field against the Detroit Lions, will mean a $16,000 payday for each Redskins player and more than $1 million, after expenses, to the team's coffers.
But distribution of tickets to some fans has not gone as smoothly as the team had hoped. Some fans said this week that their tickets were not received through the mail even though they sent their payment last month, forcing them to pick up their tickets at the stadium.
Several grumpy season ticket holders interviewed yesterday at the stadium also said they were not notified by the Redskins on how to order their tickets and others expressed frustration at trying to communicate with the team by telephone.
"With 80,000 people, there will be some people who are not satisfied and we will do our best to satisfy them," said Karl Swanson, a spokesman for team owner Daniel M. Snyder. "With the influx of inquiries and calls from people about ticket availability and sorting out ticket arrangements, there's no question it has stretched our phone capabilities.
"Since last Sunday, our ticket office has worked 24 hours a day processing tickets."
Despite the negative feelings among some fans, sports finance experts said the franchise's windfall will be a significant boost for what already is one of the most profitable franchises in professional sports.
"This amount is among the highest playoff game revenues--if not the highest--generated by any club in the NFL," said Marc S. Ganis, president of SportsCorp Ltd., a consultant to professional sports teams. "The number is a product of the size of the stadium, the number of premium seats and the interest generated by Redskins fans."
With its 80,116 seats, 15,000 of which are premium club seats, and more than 20,000 parking spaces, plus satellite parking at US Airways Arena, FedEx Field can generate one of the largest cash flows in the NFL.
Unlike regular season and preseason games, where the Redskins keep most of the ticket revenues, all of the gate receipts from nonpremium playoff tickets--after taxes, expenses and rent for their own stadium--go directly to the NFL.
The NFL in turn pays the Redskins $500,000 because they are the home team and NFC Eastern Division winner; the Lions will receive $360,000 and the equivalent of 80 first class airline tickets to pay for travel. The league also pays the players their share.
At about $75 per playoff ticket, which does not include the fees on premium tickets, the game will gross between $4 million and $6 million in ticket sales. Of that amount, 10 percent will go toward taxes, 15 percent will go back to the Redskins for use of their own stadium and to cover game expenses. The remaining revenue goes to the league.
The playoff game also will generate more than $1 million for the franchise from other sources: concessions, parking, hospitality tents, advertising in the game program, in-stadium video promotions on the scoreboard, radio rights and the Redskins All Access Sunday morning television show. ABC will televise the game as part of its year-long contract with the NFL.
In the end, the Redskins' take should be somewhere around $3.5 million before expenses, according to sports finance experts. After those expenses are covered, the Redskins should end up with more than $1 million in cash flow. The Redskins' cash flow is approaching 40 percent of gross revenues for regular season games, but playoff games cost more because of one-time expenses. Cash flow is the amount earned before interest, taxes and depreciation.
The Redskins have raised parking prices from the regular season rates of $10 and $15 to a playoff rate of $20, according to the team. The charge to park at US Airways Arena lots is also $20, which includes shuttle service to the stadium. The Redskins paid Washington Sports and Entertainment a fee of about $500,000 for use of the arena lots for the season, plus a pro-rated rent for Saturday.
Ticket prices, which were the highest average in the NFL for regular season games at $74.28 (this calculation, the Redskins said, includes fees on premium tickets), have gone up anywhere from $10 to $25 for the first playoff game. Some luxury suite owners will pay as much as $10,000 or more to sit in their box for the game, based on a pro-rated formula that counts the playoff game as equal to one-tenth the annual fee. NFL teams play 10 home games, including two preseason and eight regular season.
Washington attorney Michael Solomon, who will pay $4,117.76 for his 18-seat personal luxury suite in one of the stadium's end zones, doesn't like the pro-rated charge.
"I thought we paid for this on an annual basis," Solomon said. "It's not fair."
Swanson said, "The contracts are clear. All of our contracts are for the regular season only."
On Sunday, Snyder said the team asked the NFL for guidelines on postseason ticket sales. "We're below the recommendations made by the league," he said.
The Redskins put about 5,000 tickets up for sale to the general nonticket holding public on Wednesday--selling out early in the afternoon but added some 1,000 club seats (an average of $150 each) for sale later in the day. All but three of the luxury suites had been sold for the game by Wednesday night, the Redskins said.
Robin Kessler, an Annapolis attorney, had to go to FedEx Field yesterday for the three tickets her father bought through the mail but had not yet received. "The team was nice, but they told me I had to come and pick up our tickets."
George Trainum, 63, of Lanham, said the team did not notify him about how to pick up his tickets. So he called and went to the stadium yesterday and got them in person. "They are not our regular tickets, but they're not bad."
"It's a pleasure to host this game," Snyder said. "Our staff has worked extremely hard at making this right for our fans. It's new for us, and we're doing our best. It's another step for us trying to reach the ultimate goal of winning a championship and making our fans happy doing it."
Snyder, a Bethesda-based businessman, paid $800 million for the team last summer, which included taking on $495 million in debt. Snyder's annual debt payments on the stadium and team are estimated at between $35 and $40 million, so any extra cash flow from playoffs can help reduce that debt.
Without the playoffs, the Redskins have an annual cash flow estimated at around $60 million per year, based on an assessment by sports industry experts. After interest and taxes, Snyder and his fellow investors, including Michele, his sister; Gerald, his father; and businessman Fred Drasner, are left with an estimated $20 million. That number could grow when the team adds another 2,000 lower-level seats planned for next year.
"Traditionally, the playoffs are not a significant revenue generator" for teams, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "Some teams have lost money in the playoffs by their expenses exceeding their revenues."
Still, the Redskins should generate in excess of $1 million in premium sales from the 200 luxury suites, 1,500 loge seats and 15,000 club seats.
Based on the pro rata formula, if a person pays $2,500 for a loge seat per season (which includes the two preseason and eight regular season games), they will pay $250 for the playoff game. Of that $250, $75 will go to the NFL as the ticket price, and the remaining $175 will be split equally between the Redskins and the league office.
The same pro rata formula goes for the 15,000 club seats at about $150 apiece and the 200 luxury suites, which average roughly $10,000 each for the playoff game. Luxury suites will pass on $75 to the NFL as the ticket price for each seat in the suite, and then the Redskins will split the rest of the "premium" on the luxury suite with the NFL.
"When you compare this with what the Redskins would generate at [RFK Stadium in the District], it's a huge plus financially versus what was a small loss," Ganis said.