Goodbye, Seats; Hello, Party Deck For a team with a decades-old sell-out streak, the Redskins are removing an awful lot of seats

Achim Hepp CC 2.0

Supply is kicking demand’s ass at FedExField.

The latest indicator: Seats are being ripped out of the stadium. A whole lot of seats.

Word about the ongoing construction project got out in late April after attendees at the Redskins’ draft party noticed at least nine sections in one of the stadium’s upper deck end zones had been partially demolished.

Photos and video of the work in-progress and shots of lots of bare pavement where seats once sat circulated around the Internet, and fans wondered what to make of it all.

In the days after the draft party, a moderator on the team-owned message board ExtremeSkins.com told inquisitors that the seat removal was part of a plan to make room for “an upper deck party deck.”

Team spokesman Tony Wyllie said that the Redskins will make an announcement “very soon” about what will become of the ripped-out sections, but was otherwise mum.

“All of the details will be released at that time,” Wyllie said.

But that was a month ago, and the Redskins still aren’t ready to let on what will fill the space originally designed to seat season ticket holders. “The information on the ‘party decks’ will be announced forthcoming,” Wyllie said this week.

Even without specifics, the apparent contraction of FedExField is a big deal. This is, after all, the second offseason in a row that the team has spent removing lots of seats from a stadium that once ranked as the biggest in the NFL.

Last year, the team took several sections out of the Joe Gibbs Club Level, where the priciest seats in the stadium—and the ones the team has expended the most energy trying to sell—are located.

Those sections were turned into a standing-room-only area briefly called the RFK Standing Stomping Zone. The SRO section’s name was changed after Robert F. Kennedy’s estate let the team know it didn’t like the statesman’s initials attached without permission to a product whose main selling points included access to an in-house Hooters. The stadium diagram on the team’s website now refers to the old Standing Stomping Zone regions as simply “East Party Deck” and “West Party Deck.”

The introduction of those SRO sections—tickets to which were made available on a game-by-game basis and not just as part of season subscriptions like all other seats in the house—was taken as a sign that the stadium is too big or the tickets are too expensive or the team is too lousy.

But removing club seats for a party deck was one thing. This year’s alleged party deck installation would be a far more ominous sign, since it involves removing upper deck end zone seats, which are general admission seats and the cheapest non-obstructed view seats in the stadium. General admission seats also count when factoring in the NFL’s Blackout Rule, a loosely enforced edict that says games that aren’t sold out will not be televised in the home team’s market. Standing-room-only tickets, including those for party decks, do not apply.

Jack Kent Cooke Stadium had an advertised capacity of 78,600 when it opened in 1997. Under Dan Snyder, who took over the team in 1999, the seating area expanded to more than 91,700, including a reported 20,000 premium tickets.

This contraction of general admission season ticket supply, if that’s what is indeed happening, provides more evidence that the Redskins sellout streak and waiting list are mythical.

Since Snyder bought the team, the Redskins have pushed the sellout streak despite the waves of empty seats visible to anybody in the stadium on game day or watching on television.

The official post-game notes from the Redskins PR department for the season-ender with the New York Giants on Jan. 2, for example, led off with: “The Redskins sold out a home game for [the] 358th consecutive time, including playoff games. It also marked the 138th consecutive sellout at FedExField, which accounts for all regular season, postseason and preseason contests.”

Those streak claims can be shot down in so many ways. For instance, there was not a sellout for the Redskins’ one and only scab game at RFK during the 1987 player’s strike.

The bogosity of the waiting list has also abounded for several years now. Its existence was first disclosed by the team in 1971, when management claimed that 5,000 folks who applied for season tickets couldn’t get them. The team said the list had 45,000 names when FedExField opened in September 1997. By January 2004, Redskins official Mitch Gershman told The Washington Post there were 75,000 fans in wait. In early 2008, Snyder told The Washington Times that “our waiting list is over 200,000.”

Yet by April 2009, the team was sending out direct mail offering people a chance to get general admission seats. One recipient of the mailer told me at the time that he’d never signed up for any waiting list, but he got a missive urging him not to pass up the “once in a lifetime opportunity” to buy “up to eight (8)” season tickets and parking passes for the 2009 season.

“Quantities are limited!” the mailer read. Sure they were—so limited that management sweetened the pot by giving away $25 gift cards to the team’s retail store to anybody reeled in by the mailed offer. Also in the ad copy: “Resell your tickets for a profit for any game you are unable to attend!” Oh, sure. (Stadium contraction, though a dark sign for the Redskins, could be a boon for those who toil on the secondary ticket market, where scalpers were stuck with plenty of inventory in recent years.) And, again, this mailer was meant to move general admission tickets, not club seats.

Bottom line: If either the 358-game streak or the six-figure waiting list were close to valid, would Snyder have gone ahead with the party-deckization of FedExField that is apparently now underway?

The current crimp in demand for Redskins tickets isn’t only the fault of the team, which has put fans through back-to-back seasons that rank as among the most depressing and tumultuous and fan-unfriendly in the franchise’s history.

Now, to make it a perfect crapstorm for the team’s ticket office, comes the labor strife.

Officials of the NFL Players Association, the decertified union, say the owners miscalculated how big a problem hawking tickets for the 2011 season would be when they signed on to a lockout.

“It’s an odd scenario where the owners are putting padlocks on the stadiums, and still trying to sell a product that may not exist,” says NFLPA spokesman George Attalah.

Hence the obvious urgencies in the Skins’ latest ticket-selling efforts. Season ticket buyers who bought their 2011 seats on time were told they’d also get free tickets to one of three marquee non-Redskins events at FedExField: this weekend’s Kenny Chesney show; the July 30 friendly between Manchester United and Barcelona; or a Nov. 12 college football game, Notre Dame vs. Maryland.

It wasn’t so long ago (2005, actually) that the team was so cocky about general admission ticket demand that it forced customers to use a Redskins Extra Points MasterCard to buy season tickets. Tony Kornheiser, years before he went to work for Snyder, called that move, “One part shrewd business, three parts crapola.”

Now, the owner will let you pay with whatever plastic you want and still give you a pair of Man U/Barça tickets. And that might be the only professional football Skins season ticket holders get to see at FedEx this year.

Read Cheap Seats Daily every weekday at washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk.

Our Readers Say

Apparently there's been a season ticket bonus bait-and-switch as reported by Steinberg in his blog. Regardless of which bonus event was selected when ticket owners renewed, everyone's getting Kenny Chesley seats! Suck it, 'Skins fans!
Finally, a Washington sports team owner named Danny that is worse than Dan Borislaw.
I'm a season ticket holder and I attend at lease six home games a year. I do see empty seats when I watch a game at home and at the stadium. I would like to go on record saying that when I go to the bathroom the concourse is filled with people that are not in their seats. The only way to tell is by scanning everyone's ticket for an official count.
Besides the now bigger-than-ever axe to grind, why are McKenna, Steinberg, and scores of "fans" that haven't attended a game at FedEx since 1998 so damn obsessed with proving a point that is as trivial as it is obvious? No, the Redskins don't really "sell out" games anymore - we fans that actually ATTEND the games have long since known that. Contrary to popular belief, we don't agree to buy our season ticket package because Danny has successfully tricked us into thinking this is the "hottest ticket in town." There is no proverbial pulling of the wool over our eyes here - we buy tickets because we choose to spend our Sunday tailgating and watching our team - good, bad, ugly, incompetent, train wreck or otherwise. We see the empty seats inside the stadium. We sit with friends that decided to show up because they couldnt GIVE their seats away, and others who bought a pair for $30 off of E-BAY. WE KNOW THIS, people. When is the last time YOU heard someone bragging on this team's "sellout" streak, other than the team's own Marketing Department? And what is said Marketing Department SUPPOSED to do when trying to sell their product - tell us that the alleged demand for tickes is a sham and the waiting list is mythical? Does General Mills tell us that we would have to eat Cheerios for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for 18 consecutive years in order to actually lower our cholesterol, as their commercials claim? The demand for seats has fallen far below the supply, and the Redskins are taking measures to scale that stadium back, regardless of whether their reasoning is aesthetic, practical or financial (and it's clearly the latter). Why is this news?

I can't believe that - close to five or six years later - this same, tired, redundant "story" is still being published. And incredibly, someone is being paid to write it. SHM.

Rob, none of that will matter when the lockout is over, and all our attention will be focused on whether or not The Redskins can avoid another below .500 season.
@Rob - I think you meant SMH. Dummy.
I loved RFK and FedEx works for me in the lower "bowl" area - other than there, Fed Ex sucks... in 2000 Snyder added two seats to my row in the 400 section (thus cramming me like a sardine directly behind two seats) in the middle of the season.. Before that my seats had empty stairs at my feet... Screw you Snyder for that.
"(Stadium contraction, though a dark sign for the Redskins, could be a boon for those who toil on the secondary ticket market, where scalpers were stuck with plenty of inventory in recent years.)"

Or it'll do the opposite. Now those who want a last-minute, inexpensive ticket to the game can get one in the SRO section from the ticket office.

The Skins don't reap much from the secondary market mark-up. They get every cent short of taxes from SRO.
Re: When is the last time YOU heard someone bragging on this team's "sellout" streak, other than the team's own Marketing Department?

You have to be kidding. This city (and especially its suburbs) are full of blowhards who over pump and over hype the area's love for all things Redskins -- and the primary thing they point to is ticket sales/sellouts. Also, the local media (aside from recent work by the "axe-to-grinders" you named) often credit the Redskins for these fantasy sales. They only slowed in the last years when Steinberg and McKenna started reporting the truth. Speaking of truth... Truthfully, I've never heard ONE Redskin fan be so bold as you have here in saying: "No, the Redskins don't really "sell out" games anymore ... We see the empty seats inside the stadium. We sit with friends that decided to show up because they couldnt GIVE their seats away, and others who bought a pair for $30 off of E-BAY. WE KNOW THIS, people."



Re: And what is said Marketing Department SUPPOSED to do when trying to sell their product - tell us that the alleged demand for tickets is a sham and the waiting list is mythical?

So, you're saying they should LIE and LIE when the truth is OBVIOUS? How disgraceful.


Re: Does General Mills tell us that we would have to eat Cheerios for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for 18 consecutive years in order to actually lower our cholesterol, as their commercials claim?

This is a ridiculous comparison. If General Mills told us that Cheerios sold out every week, that there were no more boxes on shelves ANYWHERE... and we walked in and SAW BOXES, you'd say GM was full of it. And full of themselves. The Redskins are full of themselves and have been for years.



Re: The demand for seats has fallen far below the supply, and the Redskins are taking measures to scale that stadium back, regardless of whether their reasoning is aesthetic, practical or financial (and it's clearly the latter). Why is this news?

Again, you HAVE to be kidding. This team, its owner, and its fans have been unrelenting blow hards about how great THE Redskins are and how DC is a Redskins town... they have bragged about 200,000 people on magic waiting lists and no local media other than the two "axe-grinders" (as you call them) have reported the truth. And now, THE REDSKINS ARE REMOVING SEATS TO AVOID TV BLACKOUTS... and you ask why this is news? Please.

I cannot say how grateful I am that Dan $nyder bought this team. The city's love for this team has long been exaggerated. Now, with Dan $nyder, it's become wonderfully clear for all to see. The Redskins removing seats because they can't GIVE them away. Glory days!


I like "bogosity." Isn't the definition of that word "Dan Snyder?"

Aren't decks supposed to be flat?
Dave,

Sorry, just reading this now, but...

"bogosity"

is now the word of the day for me.

Thanks and never stop your great work.

Love the article.

Redskins fans kicking their can all over the place should look at two games from the recent past as evidence of how bitchtastic their fanbase is. The last time the Steelers came up here, I've never seen so many visiting fans that were non-NFC east foes. I was flying to Pittsburgh the morning of the game and my flight to Pittsburgh arrived at National Airport and no fewer than 100 Black and Yellow clad Steelers fans tumbled off the plane. And they were amped and unafraid. When I turned the game on that night? It was obvious that there were thousands and thousands and thousands of Pittsburgh fans that either live here and bought tickets or showed up and bought tickets from secondary sources and 'Skins fans that knew it wasn't worth it to go.
The second game was the much-hyped Eagles game last year. 'Skins fans, you know the one: the game when that punk LaRon Landry made fun of Desean Jackson's concussions. Well, LaRon, you can lift a Bentley with all those muscles, but you took a bad angle on Jackson and couldn't lay a kill-shot on him AND you forgot to make the tackle. And you got pwned on television. Now, shut up and make a play. LOL. And it got progressively worse from there and Eagles fans ended up having a party at FedEx.
Snyder's a pathetic excuse for an owner. He doesn't care about this community that blindly supports his crap franchise. And lying about the waiting list? Weak.
More sections are scheduled to be removed this spring/summer. Party deck was also scraped.

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