It's time to welcome the Golden State Warriors into the Personal Seat License Club. Kind of. According to a report by ESPN reporter Darren Rovell, the Warriors will be selling something almost-but-not-quite-exactly PSLs for their new arena, the Chase Center, which is scheduled to open in 2019.
We'll get to the differences between the Warriors "memberships" and PSLs in a bit, but this isn't exactly surprising, as the $1 billion San Francisco arena is privately financed. The owners have to get their money back somehow, and for the past 20 years PSLs have been the first stop on that revenue train.
PSLs were invented by sports marketing executive Max Muhleman back in the 1990s and have gotten a bad rep ever since. Million- or billionaire team owners asking fans to fork over anywhere from four to six figures just for the right to buy season tickets in a new stadium isn't exactly a great look. Up to this point, those owners have mostly been NFL owners. PSLs have, by and large, been an NFL phenomena, starting with the Carolina Panthers and more recently with the San Francisco 49ers.
At least in theory, PSLs are among the much fairer ways for a new stadium to get built, since the people who will actually be using and enjoying the facility cover a larger share of the cost than taxpayers, who generally won't derive much benefit from it. (Of course, this hasn't stopped some owners from dipping their feet in both the taxpayer and PSL pools, because why not?)
Which brings us back to the Warriors. They've added a unique wrinkle to their PSL plan, which is how they can, somewhat justifiably, call them "memberships" instead: after 30 years, the team will give the PSL holder his or her money back.
While pricing plans for the membership have not yet been released, a Warriors team spokesperson confirmed to VICE Sports that the refund will work as follows: let's say Joe buys a membership for $10,000. If he keeps it for all 30 years, he gets the $10,000 back in 2049. Joe can sell his membership at any point, but not for more than $10,000. So say in 2030 he sells his membership to Jane for $8,000. After the 30 years are up, the team will refund Joe $2,000 and Jane $8,000. In the unfortunate event Joe dies before 2049, a family member can get his membership and the refund.
This makes sense for both sides. The Warriors, as Rovell pointed out, get an interest-free 30-year loan, which is a hell of a deal. According to his ESPN story, the Warriors will sell around 12,000 seats for season-ticket holders, at a median cost of around $15,000—which works out to an easy $200 million for the owners, and would save them somewhere in the ballpark of $1 million every month on interest payments. (Again, this is extremely back-of-the-envelope stuff, but if anything, this is a huge underestimate; the 49ers, for example, recently refinanced their stadium loan down from $30 million a year to $24 million at an interest rate of 5 percent.)
As for the fans, getting their money back after 30 years sounds great! That's way more fan-friendly than, well, not getting the money back. There are certainly better things to do with many thousands of dollars over a 30-year period, but hey, if you like basketball and have the money—two descriptors that describe a significant chunk the Bay Area at the moment—then why the hell not.