Who’s really paying for the new Cowboys Stadium?

As the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium begins to take shape, the local media are beginning to report some concerns about ticket prices in the new stadium. According to the WFAA-TV news, “While the current price is $129 at Texas Stadium, lower level Club Seats, which extend from end zone to end zone, all cost $340 per ticket. But before one can buy a luxury seat, they also have to purchase a Personal Seat License, which start at the price of $16,000 and go up as high as $150,000. Those numbers are by far the most expensive P.S.L. in the N.F.L. Currently, the most expensive seat license is $12,000 at the Carolina Panther’s Stadium.”

Given that there are roughly 15,000 club seats in the new stadium, if these seats sell out as Dallas owner Jerry Jones hopes, the team stand to make at least $250 million from PSL sales. Add in planned PSL sales for the remaining 65,000 seats, and one might be in the neighborhood of $300 or $400 million in PSL sales.

Most public finance economists favor PSLs as a method of financing stadiums as the cost of the stadium is borne by the season ticket holders thus satisfying the “user pays” principle of public finance.

However, the use of PSLs often obscures the sources of financing for the stadium. WCAA-TV also notes that the “crown jewel” of the new stadium is Jerry Jone’s personal 30,000 sq. ft. “Presidential Club” suite. When questioned about whether an owner should have such lavish digs in a publicly financed stadium, “Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said since Jones is paying for most of the stadium, taxpayers shouldn’t have a problem. ‘Does it bother me?’ he said. ‘No, it does not. He is making a huge investment in Arlington.’ Jones’ investment is about $725 million. The city of Arlington’s investment is about $475 million.”

Counting in the $300 or $400 million in PSLs, however, shouldn’t this read, “The city of Arlington’s investment is about $475 million, season ticket holders’ investment is $300-400 million, and Jerry Jones is in for the remaining $300 or $400 million (which he should make back in a year or two)”?

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Author: Victor Matheson

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