SBJ/April 5 - 11, 2004/Facilities

Seats and Skins: FedEx Field to grow by 5,000

The Washington Redskins, after leading the NFL in ticket sales the last four seasons, are adding more than 5,000 seats at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., to increase the stadium's capacity to 92,000, sources said.

The team is building 10 to 12 luxury suites and extending the loge level in each end zone outward with two new rows of seats. Seats are also being added at the top of the lower bowl.

Sources said the $12 million to $13 million project will include sound system and other mechanical and electrical upgrades. The improvements will be completed by August. Project officials have spent the last six weeks on site doing preliminary work.

Team spokesman Karl Swanson did not return phone calls for comment.

Len Perna, a facility development consultant with Turnkey Sports in Highland, Md., said the Redskins are going against the industry trend of cutting premium-seat inventory.

"Everybody is taking away premium seating because they can't sell it," he said. "But I don't think the Redskins would add seats if they hadn't pre-sold them or done an informal survey. They wouldn't have made the investment."

The Redskins have previously reported that there are 71,000 names on the waiting list for season tickets. Perna said, "Not every team can sell that many seats, but it certainly seems like they can. We're in this marketplace, and they're pretty strong."

The Redskins sold a league-high 643,997 tickets in 2003, averaging 80,500 in attendance for eight regular-season home games, filling FedEx Field to 93.1 percent capacity.

Bill Rhoda, another industry consultant with CSL Consulting in Dallas, said that NFL teams generally have no problem selling suites and that the additional units at FedEx Field shouldn't make a difference because the Redskins already have a large number of skyboxes.

The stadium has 234 units, second-most in the league behind the Dallas Cowboys' 370 suites at Texas Stadium in Irving. The Georgia Dome in Atlanta is third with 203.

Rhoda said the return of coach Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowl titles with the Redskins in the 1980s and 1990s, has increased ticket demand. "They're capitalizing on all the off-season changes ... and a Hall of Fame coach coming back," he said. "It's a testament to the drawing power of the Redskins. They continue to attract fans in good times and bad. They realize the financial advantages of adding seats to provide season tickets for some of those people on the waiting list."

The stadium had 86,484 seats last season, also tops in the NFL. Giants Stadium was second with 80,242 seats. The year's largest crowd at FedEx Field was 85,490. On two occasions in 2003, the facility reached 98 percent capacity.

Ellerbe Becket is designing the additions, and Turner Construction has been hired as the general contractor. HOK Sport designed the stadium, which opened in 1997 with 78,600 seats. Previous expansion efforts added nearly 8,000 seats.

NFL STADIUMS WITH THE LARGEST CAPACITY LAST SEASON
The expansion at FedEx Field will increase its lead over No. 2 Giants Stadium to more than 10,000 seats.
 
Stadium Capacity
FedEx Field 86,484
Giants Stadium 80,242
Arrowhead Stadium 79,451
Alltel Stadium 76,877
Invesco Field at Mile High 76,125
 
Source: Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal research

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