Not sure about you, but I still haven’t gotten my fill of the Redskins/FedExField/party decks/waiting list story. I have an insatiable appetite for this story, especially until free agency starts.
Thus, allow me 8 million words of dialog between Bruce Allen, John Thompson and Rick “Doc” Walker from Friday’s John Thompson Show on ESPN 980. Allen was on the show to answer a few questions presumably raised by our story on the party decks in that day’s paper. The questions raised in my mind by this interview come after the transcript, below.
Thompson: Explain to me if you can, because I don’t understand the concerns about it to tell you the truth. Explain to me what is going on in the stadium, the reconstruction of the seats, this section — I think they referenced it as being some kind of party section. Bruce, what exactly were your guys’ intentions, and what exactly did you do to get done what you’re gonna do?
Allen: Well, a year ago we started a remodeling of FedEx Field. We want to keep it as a state-of-the-art stadium. We’re proud of our venue. We’re proud of being able to host as many people in it for a home game as any team in the league. And you saw first the video boards. And then we entered into this exciting arrangement with NRG, where we think we’re gonna have the greenest stadium in the United States in 2011, and when we get up and running the whole way, we think we’re really setting the pace for something new. You all saw last year we opened up some party decks. We stole a good idea from the Dallas Cowboys for the standing room party decks that we think is a way to get more young people involved, more families involved during our Redskin games. And we had a great response from last year’s party decks, and we’re gonna increase the size of those over time in order to really get our stadium to have that rocking feeling of RFK.
Thompson: What kind of reaction — and I’m not talking about the reaction from the standpoint of the media, reaction from the standpoint of talk radio — but directly from the fans that purchase tickets, what kind of reaction have you gotten from those kinds of people to what you’re doing?
Allen: Well last year, because we did it on a limited basis, we got a fantastic reaction from the fans. And they enjoyed it, and it was a festive area, and obviously the first game for them last year was our Dallas opening game, so that was a way to host a good party at FedEx Field. But we really think that we’re trying to stay at the cutting edge, and with our new energy efficiency, we think we have a model here that everybody in our country is going to try to copy.
Walker: Have you received any complaints from people that are waiting for tickets, because you’re eliminating opportunities for people. There’s always been that thought that this is such an in-demand product. Has there been any repercussion as a result of that?
Allen: Well, no. We made a business decision at the beginning of this lockout not to try and go after and sell tickets to waiting-list people. We didn’t think it was the right time or the right climate for that. But we’re proud of our season ticket waiting list. We know the fans are anxious to get into our stadium. We think these party decks, in time, is going to allow more people access to our stadium who usually would not be able to come.
Thompson: Now with that, Bruce, were there a lot of people displaced in order to have these party sections?
Allen: Well, yes. And those people were moved. Our season-ticket holders were moved to better seats, really.
Thompson: They were accommodated, in other words.
Allen: Absolutely they were, and so there was no complaints from any of the fans who got moved to better locations. But when you see the final designs of the solar panels that go in, I think it’ll be much easier to see the plan come together. It just takes some time. You don't just plug it in and say it’s working. They’re working there at FedEx Field today, just getting us ready for the preseason games.
Walker: See Bruce this sounds pretty normal. I can understand this. But yet it’s been several different versions of this. Why was this so misunderstood, and why is there a faction of people who are going wait a minute, these are areas that COULD NOT be sold and weren’t sold?...Why couldn’t this just come out clean, as to whatever it is, it is?
Allen: Well, I'm not sure about that Doc. As we do in society, information leaks and sometimes it’s incorrect. A rumor grows legs. But ever since we put in those party decks last year we got a tremendous response from our fans; we saw it as a vision for the future that we think our fans are gonna love. A solar energy-efficient stadium is a dream for almost every community in this country, and for us to be a leader at that, we’re really quite proud of it. So I’ve only seen it as a win-win. We’ve had comments from every other venue in the country, all wanting to find out how we’re doing it, what a visionary idea it is. So we’re quite proud of what we set our sights on and the work that’s being done right now.
Ok. So that’s the transcript. And here would be some of my questions.
1) Allen said the party decks will “allow more people access to our stadium who usually would not be able to come.” Last week, Lon Rosenberg said “the idea behind that was to give us a little more room...by reducing the total number of people here at FedEx Field.” Those seem slightly contradictory.
2) Allen said the party decks will get “more families involved.” This is the first time I’ve heard mention that party decks will appeal to families. I find that hard to believe.
3) Allen said leaked information is sometimes incorrect, and “a rumor grows legs.” Which was the rumor? That party decks were definitely coming, as the team’s Web site reported? Or that the Redskins couldn’t sell the seats that were being removed, as a VP of the team said on the radio?
4) Allen said they haven’t received any complaints from displaced fans. Well, I have — some who said they actually liked being in the end zone, and some who were concerned that while their costs for improved seat locations won’t increase in 2011, there is no such guarantee for 2012. So, really, the Redskins haven’t gotten any complaints?
5) Allen said the team also hasn’t received complaints from people on the waiting list about the disappearance of 10,000 general admission seats. Well, I have. And this is really the troubling part. The team, through Rosenberg, said that “the people on the waiting list are being offered to buy seats. And we have the seats available for them. These are seats that they were not wanting to buy.” But I’ve heard from multiple fans who claim to be on the waiting list, and claim that they would have loved to buy these seats, but that they’ve only ever been offered club seats. I myself signed up for the wait list in either 2006 or 2007, and while I’ve been offered premium seats at least three times, I’ve never gotten an offer for general-admission seats. And so one might wonder, is the team using its “waiting list” not to actually sell general-admission seats in an orderly way, but instead as a sales list for premium sales, of which the team keeps a larger portion of the revenue? And by eliminating 10,000 general admission seats while not touching the clubs, is the team attempting to shunt more fans into the areas in which the club can make more money?
Because that would be kind of crummy.