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Volume 20 No. 42
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Cal's twist on PSLs helps sell club seats for renovated stadium

Don Muret
The University of California has sold more than half of the 3,000 new club seats connected to its Endowment Seating Program, a key piece of financing for the long-awaited renovation of Memorial Stadium.

In a first for college sports, Cal, in conjunction with its consultant, Stadium Capital Financing Group, developed the Endowment Seating Program, known as ESP. It will help pay for $321 million in stadium upgrades and, in the long term, fund the Pac-10 school’s sports teams.

As of last week, the program had produced sales of 1,556 club seats, said Alicia Rowell, the school’s assistant athletic director for development. An additional 219 club seats have been sold pending completion of paperwork, Rowell said.

ESP provides a twist on the traditional PSL model for financing sports construction. In Berkeley, to buy a premium seat in one of three new clubs stacked on the stadium’s west side, buyers sign a contract that guarantees them that seat for the next 40 to 50 years. The financial terms are flexible; the individual can pay the entire sum upfront or spread those payments over 30 years. Those choosing the latter option must pay a 6 percent annual administrative fee. The cost of season tickets is covered in those payments and the price is locked in for the length of the contract.

In that sense, the ESP is different from a personal seat license, a one-time fee for the right to own a seat. PSLs, common in the major leagues, typically do not cover the cost of season tickets, and the price of those tickets can escalate from one season to the next.

In addition, under the Endowment Seat Program, club seat holders can opt out of their deals if for some reason they cannot make their payments. A divorce is one example, Rowell said. In that case, the school has the right to resell those seats at a higher price.

Once their ESP seats are fully paid for, the owner has the right to transfer those seats to family members.

The first two years of the Endowment Seating Program have seen existing season-ticket holders throughout the stadium buy seats tied to long-term deals, she said, including those who previously bought end zone tickets that do not require annual donations.

Each of the three clubs has three price levels for seats between the 30-yard lines. For those paying annually, the low-end price is $2,741 for membership in the Field Level Club, which at about 1,600 seats is the biggest of the three premium-seat sections.

The high-end price is $15,421 a year to buy a seat in the University Club at the top of the new building, providing the best views of San Francisco Bay on an outdoor deck behind those 600 seats. The 800 seats in the midlevel Stadium Club start at $5,140 a year.

Those costs cover food and drink, including alcohol, in the University and Stadium clubs. It is a separate fee for the Field Level club.

With Memorial Stadium under construction, Cal will play its six home games this fall at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

The renovation, designed by HNTB in association with Studios Architecture, will be completed for the 2012 season.

FIELD OF GREEN: The $31 million retrofit of Jeld-Wen Field created more field-level hospitality spaces for the Portland Timbers after the MLS team sold out the building’s 24 suites and the new 1,150-seat KeyBank Club.

Jeld-Wen Field’s retrofit helped create new premium seating for the Portland Timbers.
The project shifted the playing field to the west and north of its original location, bringing the pitch closer to the fans in the new east grandstand. The Timbers created two new premium-seat products in that sliver of sideline field-level space between the LED boards and the new stands.

The 44 midfield seats, priced at $225 to $400 a game, are sold out. The same is true for the Root Sports Lounge’s 24 tables of four seats, which sell for $65 to $105 a seat per game.

The cost for both field-level seat packages covers food and drink but not alcohol. Midfield seat holders get access to the KeyBank Club.

Aecom Ellerbe Becket designed the retrofit and Turner Construction is building it at the stadium, which opened in 1926 for minor league baseball. Icon Venue Group represented the Timbers on the project.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BreakGround.