Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has found a way to make the biggest stadium in the NFL even bigger, squeezing another 5,000-plus seats into FedEx Field in time for Saturday's preseason game marking the return of Coach Joe Gibbs.
FedEx Field's capacity is 91,665, up from 86,484 last year. The new seats range from about 4,000 lower-level general admission seats, some with partially obscured views, to 300 more "dream seats" ringing the field to another 500 luxury loge seats. Both the dream seats and loge seats cost about $3,500 per seat per season, according to Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson. Another 150 or so seats that accompany the 11 new Owner's Club suites have been added.
The $23 million expansion was originally planned as part of the team's bid to land the 2008 Super Bowl, which was given to the Arizona Cardinals. When the team brought back three-time Super Bowl winner Gibbs, ticket demand led to the expansion.
"We would not have done this had Coach Gibbs not come back," Swanson said.
Club-level fans also will see a new Hooters restaurant and the loge level includes an expansive bar and flat-screen televisions. There's even an experimental "Forward Pass" debit card program that allows cardholders to circumvent cash-only concession lines.
The Redskins added the seats by stretching the balcony to add two rows to the loge section, which rings the end zone above the club level, at one end of the stadium.
The 4,000 new general admission seats, priced at $69 each, were created by adding 10 rows to the back of the lower bowl section that rings the north half of the stadium and are tucked under the premium club seats. Giant pillars block the view from a number of the new seats, which are built on metal risers. Dozens of flat screen televisions and speakers have been installed to compensate.
"We did full disclosure and told people to come look at these seats and see if you want them," said Swanson. "There are definitely trade-offs."
Unlike many taxpayer-funded stadiums, the Redskins' was privately built in 1997 at a cost of about $250 million. Snyder, who bought the team and stadium in 1999 for $800 million, has labored to increase revenue from the facility and team, ranging from parking to premium seating to opening Redskins retail stores throughout the Washington area.
As a result, the Redskins are one of the most powerful economic engines in sports, earning revenues estimated at well over $200 million annually. That's going to get bigger with Gibbs's return.
"Dan Snyder has taken one of the strongest sports brands in the country and added the nostalgia factor of Joe Gibbs," said sports marketer Marc S. Ganis, president of Chicago-based SportsCorp Ltd.
The latest increase means Snyder has added approximately 12,000 seats since he bought the team, increasing the number of luxury suites from 199 to around 243. He has spent more than $100 million on stadium improvements, including better plumbing, a wind screen, sound systems, sight-line enhancements and escalators.
During one stadium upgrade in 2000, Snyder unearthed $10 million in new revenue streams, including the installation of 500 more loge seats, establishment of an Owner's Club class of super suites, the addition of 1,500 general admission seats and the initial placement of more than 1,100 dream seats.
Snyder has increased general seat ticket prices twice, in 2000 and '02, when he added $4 to the price in order to cover the cost of increased security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Redskins had the second-highest average general admission ticket price in the NFL at $68.06 per ticket last season, according to Team Marketing Report.