Twenty years after the Panthers first began playing in Charlotte, people are still buying and selling “permanent” rights to sit in the same seat at every home game.
It’s not an easy task. In an era in which live sports is competing fiercely with big-screen TVs and the comfort of your home recliner, convincing people to buy a financial product they’re probably not familiar with is tough.
Not only are you shelling out thousands of dollars for the PSL — permanent seat license — you’re also committing yourself to spend thousands more on season tickets for the foreseeable future.
There are plenty of advantages to owning a PSL. You can pick and choose the games you want to attend. And there really isn’t too much trouble selling off individual game tickets if you can’t make it one day.
But you can’t really treat it as an investment. When it’s time to sell, it can be hard to recoup your money. Over the course of the Panthers franchise, PSLs have sold for as much as three times the initial price — but have also dipped below 1995 pricing as recently as 2010. And all that doesn’t take into account people who bought high during a winning season.
If you’re trying to unload these PSLs, this year might be the right time. The confluence of a booming Charlotte population and the Panthers unprecedented success — 11-0 doesn’t happen every day – means that buyers are getting easier to come by.
Data shows that sellers are taking note. The average price on online marketplace PSL Source was $1,750 last year. This year it’s about $2,300. Last year, about 1,700 seats were listed for sale on PSL Source. This year, there’s about 2,300 — a 35 percent increase.
Why a PSL?
A PSL gives the holder the right — and the obligation — to purchase season tickets for the same seat every year. The team pre-sold these PSLs to the public as a way to finance a significant portion of Bank of America Stadium’s construction.
More than 61,000 were sold, raking in more than $150 million for the franchise. Costs at the time ranged from $600 to $5,400. You can still buy a handful from the Panthers organization today, and costs range from $20,000 for lower-level mid-field to $1,000 for the nosebleeds.
But there are many more available on the secondary market. The prices have varied wildly over the years, and it can be hard to sell them.
“It is not the most liquid of assets,” said Greg Carl, president of online marketplace site PSL Source. “Sellers generally far outnumber buyers regardless of the situation of the team.”
Carl estimates that about 6,000 to 7,000 are on the market in all. Large blocks of them are corporately owned and won’t be on the market anytime soon.
What if you don’t want them anymore?
If you’re not in a position to go to every Panthers game anymore, you do have some options. You can sell your tickets individually on secondary exchanges, or even sell the entire season in one block.
Because of that, people really don’t sell because they’re unhappy with the play on the field. Most of the time, it’s because of circumstances in the owner’s life. For example, a kid is going to college or a move occurs.
But there is an increase in buyers if the team is doing well. People looking to unload their PSLs recognize this. The funny thing is that prices don’t automatically start increasing.
“More motivated sellers are getting burned off the market,” Carl said. Prices will lag for a year or more as this process runs its course. Only if the Panthers continue their success will PSL prices ultimately start to come up significantly.
Tim Lowman recently put up an ad on Craigslist for his two PSLs — Section 140, Row 13, Seats 3 and 4.
“These are great seats,” he told me by phone, convenient to the restrooms and concessions. He’s had them for almost 15 years. But now his wife has health problems — multiple cardiac arrests — and they’re just not able to go to the games anymore. Face value on the Panthers website is $7,500 each. Lowman has been advertising them for $4,299.
“You’ve got to have a market, you’ve got to have people willing to commit to 10 home games a year,” he said. “You’ve got to have people who have the finances.”
When I talked to him, he’d had no serious inquiries.
“It may take a few years,” Lowman said. “I don’t know.”
New buyers are coming in
Lowman may end up having success this year. The team’s winning streak has made tickets in general more in demand. If you want to go to premium match-ups, you’re going to pay a bundle on the resale market. If you have a PSL, you get to buy tickets to the Green Bay game for face value.
Charlotte is also a rapidly growing city, and people are moving here from places like the Northeast and Midwest where NFL season tickets come with decades-long waiting lists.
Sarah Wrona relocated to Charlotte with her husband Josh five years ago from Pittsburgh, where Steelers season tickets have a whopping 40 year wait list. Not a typo.
“Our love of football carried over easily to Carolina,” Wrona said.
They’ve been to a handful of games so far this season, but they decided to pull the trigger on buying a PSL this year because of the “outrageous” fees when buying on the secondary market and “inflated” prices on big games.
“We know how fortunate we are to have an opportunity to purchase a PSL, and couldn’t miss the chance to watch our favorite team every Sunday from the comfort of our very own club seats,” Wrona said.