The math just doesn’t add up for Bills season ticket holders.
There are currently 63,000 of them. But the new stadium will only hold a little over 60,000.
That means nearly 3,000 current season ticket holders — and possibly more if the team intends to hold back some seats for individual game ticket buyers — could be out in the cold when the new stadium opens.
But that assumes they all want to move to the new stadium and the Bills want all current season ticket holders to stay.
The reality is that some current season ticket holders likely won’t be interested or may not be able to afford it, while the team tries to limit season ticket accounts deemed to be run by brokers who primarily buy the seats so they can put them up for sale – hopefully with a profit – on the secondary ticket market. Some of these brokers can hold hundreds of season tickets in one account.
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Ticket prices will certainly be higher at the new stadium – the team has yet to say how much – and that could push some ticket holders out.
And then there are the personal seat licenses that season ticket holders will be required to purchase – again, the bills have yet to say how much they will cost. But that can add several thousand dollars to the upfront cost of each seat, especially those in prime locations, and potentially price out season tickets to working-class ticket holders.
While the bills cannot prohibit the purchase of season tickets at the new stadium for the sole purpose of reselling them, they could introduce new terms and conditions, including a ticket maximum for each season ticket holder account. In the new stadium, it will probably be eight.
The Bills seem to recognize that all of this could mean thousands of season ticket holders won’t be coming with them to the new stadium.
So even though their season ticket base is currently large enough to fill every seat in the new stadium, leaving a few thousand out in the cold, the team is taking $150 down payments from potential season ticket holders.
“We look forward to taking you on the journey to New Highmark Stadium,” the Bills tell fans on their website. But how many of them will the team realistically be able to bring into the season ticket fold at the new stadium?
Current season ticket holders will be contacted this summer to set up an appointment at the sales center under construction at the Walker Center in Williamsville, The Stadium Experience, and will be connected with a dedicated new stadium representative who will walk them through every step of the way.
The Bills are working with Legends, the consulting firm overseeing the sales process for the Bills, to get the center up and running.
The Stadium Experience is also likely to be where season ticket holders find out how much personal seat licenses will cost in various locations around the stadium – an important consideration for fans choosing where to sit or whether to continue as a season ticket holder.
The PSL, which is a one-time fee charged to season ticket holders for the right to purchase tickets, is a standard tool used to help finance new stadiums, but a new concept in the Buffalo market. It can be paid as a lump sum or as part of a payment plan.
There are season ticket holders unsure whether a PSL will price them out of the new stadium – even as the Bills have said their PSLs will be some of the most affordable in the league, while others strongly oppose paying for a PSL just to buy season tickets.
That’s even true for some longtime season-ticket holders like Tim Johnson, who told The News last year he likely wouldn’t spend the $6,000 to $7,000 he expects to be charged for each of his Section 130 seats.
A survey distributed to many season ticket holders last year showed initial potential price ranges for PSLs at various locations around the new stadium. PSL prices noted in the survey start at $500 for reserve seats and reach as high as $16,500 for premium seats.
“How come they’re passing all this expense on to their most loyal fans,” Johnson, the 35-year-old season-ticket holder, said Monday. “The money is not here. And as costs skyrocket from building the stadium and player salaries, it will threaten the very existence of the Bills in Buffalo.”
And even some fans willing to pony up will have their limits, Kathy Swanekamp told The News last year.
“They’re going to have to give me a number and I’m going to have to look at my checkbook to see if I can do it,” said Swanekamp, a Bills season ticket holder since 1993.
“I’m still interested in keeping my tickets at the new stadium, but I still haven’t heard a number for the PSL,” she said on Monday. “Without a number, it’s hard to make a decision one way or the other.”
The underlying premise that not everyone can or will be willing to drop thousands of dollars on a PSL may be the driving force behind the Bills’ efforts to gain interest from current non-season ticket holders in potentially becoming one in 2026 when the new Highmark Stadium is scheduled to open.
Fans interested in purchasing season tickets at the future Bills stadium can join the waiting list by making a deposit of $150 per ticket. seat. At least that will secure them a deal in the coming months for the Stadium Experience.
There are already thousands of fans who have signed up and paid the deposit.
First priority for seats at the new stadium will be given to existing Highmark Stadium season ticket members whose place on the priority list to purchase seats at the New Highmark Stadium has already been established through seniority.
After current season ticket members have had an opportunity to review their options, Stadium Experience representatives will begin reaching out to the priority list that is being established now.
Right now, about 10,000 seats are allocated to individual game ticket buyers at the current Highmark Stadium, which seats about 73,000.
The Bills initially said PSLs will be required for the minimum 50,000 seats to be reserved for Bills season ticket holders in what is expected to be a new 60,000 to 63,000-seat stadium.
How many seats reserved specifically for season ticket holders could change based on fan interest — that number could reach as high as about 55,000, the Bills have said, but the team has also expressed a desire to keep the base at about 90% for 91% of stadium capacity.
“We will most likely have the lowest PSLs of any new stadium built since 2009,” Ron Raccuia, executive vice president and COO of the Bills, said last year. “And that’s a function of the market and that we’re committed to making sure we don’t price our fans out of the market. We’ll be very mindful of that with PSLs.”
The team also believes that by bringing the ticket broker under control, it could open up thousands of seats for interested season ticket holders.
Thanks to mobile ticketing, teams can track various sales and transfer information and activities in the secondary market to identify accounts that exist primarily to sell tickets, many times at or above market value.
And while it may be legal to resell tickets, teams can adopt a policy that limits it by maximizing the number of season tickets account holders can purchase. Teams in a number of different markets have tried in different ways to put pressure on ticket brokers.
For example, in 2020 the New Orleans Saints revoked the season tickets of some brokers who sold their seats to every game. Three years earlier, the Denver Broncos weeded out hundreds of season ticket holders because those fans didn’t attend a single game the season before and instead sold them on the secondary market.