Personal seat license

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A personal seat license, or PSL, is a paid license that entitles the holder to the right to buy season tickets for a certain seat in a stadium. This holder can sell the seat license to someone else if they no longer wish to purchase season tickets.[1] However, if the seat license holder chooses not to sell the seat licenses and does not renew the season tickets, the holder forfeits the license back to the team. Most seat licenses are valid for as long as the team plays in the current venue.

As each PSL corresponds to a specific seat, the venue operator can charge different prices for each individual seat. From the fan's perspective, having a specific seat removed the necessity of searching for an open seat in a filled stadium. Also, fans can become friends with other people who also have PSLs in neighboring seats. Newly-built sporting venues often offer PSLs to help pay the debt incurred during the construction of the venue. Opponents of PSLs see this as another way to increase the price that fans must afford to attend the venue.

Seat licenses have been given various names. The most common term in North America is personal seat license and in Europe is debenture.

Origin of seat licenses[edit]

There are varying accounts as to the origin of the personal seat license.

According to one account, the first personal seat license plan was developed in 1986 at Stanford University by legendary tennis coach Dick Gould.[2][3] Seeking financing for a new tennis stadium, Gould came up with the idea of selling the rights to seats, a licensing plan under which purchaser's name is engraved in the seat, and the purchaser owns the right to have first choice for tickets for any event held in the stadium.[3]

According to a second account, the permanent seat license was invented by a Columbus, Ohio architect, Rick Ohanian, in January 1987. Ohanian described his plan in a Letter to The Editor of the Columbus Dispatch, published on March 2, 1987, entitled "Ticketbond is Answer to Financing Proposed Facility".[4]

According to a third account, the permanent seat license was invented by Charlotte sports marketing agent Max Muhleman, in 1993. Muhleman is credited as the founder of the first PSLs at Charlotte's then Carolinas Stadium. The idea began as "Charter Seat Rights”, an idea Muhleman suggested to Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn as a way to reward those who bought season tickets and helped Shinn get the team in the 1980s. The Hornets' season ticket holders received these rights for free, but people sold them like a commodity. This gave Muhleman the idea to use a similar concept, which fans would pay for, to finance the stadium.[5]

In 1969, the Dallas Cowboys used stadium bonds to finance the construction of Texas Stadium in Irving. The purchase of the bond entitled the bond holder to purchase season tickets for the Cowboys.[6]

Others cite similar programs that were in existence among many college fund raising activities prior to 1987. However, the early programs were tax-deductible donations to a scholarship fund, in which case the main "quid-pro-quo" was between the donation and the resultant deduction, not between the donation and the actual seating rights.

Sports teams and organizations employing seat licenses[edit]

Here is a list of some of the teams that have seat licenses:

NFL seat licenses

MLB Seat Licenses

Car Racing Seat Licenses

NHL Seat Licenses

NBA Seat Licenses

  • Charlotte Hornets PSL
  • Golden State Warriors Membership
    • Instituted in 2017 for all season tickets at the team's future home of Chase Center, opening in 2019. The Warriors became the first NBA team with a broad-based PSL. The PSL, which runs for 30 years, can either be given back to the team or transferred at any time, although it cannot be sold for more than its face value, prorated for the number of years remaining on the license. At the end of the license period, the face value of the license will be returned to the original owner (or heirs) if it has never been transferred. If the license is transferred, the team must be notified of the price; if the price paid falls short of the full price less payments already made, the team will return the difference to the original owner at the end of the license period. The PSL operates as an interest-free loan to the team.[8]
  • Toronto Raptors PSL
  • Utah Jazz PSL