A license to drive ... a license to fish ... and now, a license to buy a season ticket in the new Vikings stadium.
There were skeptics who doubted whether Minnesotans would react well to paying money – in some cases several thousand dollars – for the right to pay more money for a season ticket.
But the Vikings said Wednesday they've now sold 90 percent of the seat licenses for U.S. Bank Stadium (they call them Stadium Builder's Licenses) and expect the fewer than 5,000 that remain will be snapped up in the spring.
A license allows the purchaser to buy a particular season ticket for up to 30 years. About three-fourths of the seats in U.S. Bank Stadium (49,700 of the 66,200 seats) will be sold only to license holders. The better the seat, the more the license costs.
The Vikings sold licenses at 16 different prices, ranging from $500 to $9,500. The team says the six most expensive price levels are sold out. The Vikings' top marketing executive, Steve LaCroix, tells MPR News: "Fans really reacted well and frankly the most expensive seats were some of the very first to go."
MPR notes the Vikings originally planned to charge more for the licenses but reconsidered after encountering criticism, particularly from Gov. Mark Dayton, who helped lead the campaign to use nearly $500 million in taxpayer money to pay for the stadium.
The seat license era in pro sports
According to The Street, seat licenses were first sold in the NFL in 1995 when St. Louis put the revenue toward construction of a new stadium that helped convince the Los Angeles Rams to move to Missouri. (Now the Rams are headed back to California and The Street says St. Louis and Missouri will be paying off stadium bonds for another five years.)
The Street notes that in some cases the money NFL teams raise from license sales means they can avoid asking for public dollars to build stadiums.
That's not the case in Minnesota. The Star Tribune reports the $125 million the Vikings plan to raise from license sales will go toward the $578 million team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf have committed to the stadium.
Vice Sports recently spoke with Max Muhleman, the marketing exec who is credited/blamed for inventing the seat license concept. Muhleman said he envisioned the license as a no-cost perk for season ticket holders, who could continue to renew their seats or sign the rights over to someone else if they chose not to renew. He told Vice Sports he regrets what seat licenses have turned into.
MPR blogger Bob Collins calls the licenses "a particularly horrible shakedown that professional sports teams foist on their customers."
But it could be worse. The Star Tribune says at the new football stadium that will open in Atlanta next year, every seat in the building requires a license and the costs range up to $45,000.