Redskins season ticket waiting list is a mystery to fans, sports experts

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Local,Real Estate,Liz Farmer
The Washington Redskins have touted the team's decade-long waiting list for season tickets as a marketing tool illustrating the team's popularity among fans. But in recent years the team's handling of ticket sales has been marked by inconsistencies and shrouded in secrecy, and some experts have dismissed the idea of a lengthy list of would-be season tickets buyers as a myth.

The Redskins have refused to release the actual number of hopeful fans on the list. The last official count according to news reports was in 1996, before owner Dan Snyder bought the team, when it was roughly 45,000.

Former season ticket holders said they were told the list numbered about 100,000 people when they signed up in the early 2000s. But they were not given a number and every year they are reminded that they've moved "up" until one day they get a call from the sales office.

But at the same time, those on the list are pummeled with offers from the team about ticket specials and limited offers of tickets for the year -- creating suspicion that the waiting list is a sham.

FedEx Field over the years
1997Stadium opened as Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, capacity 80,116
1999Dan Snyder buys team sell naming rights to FedEx
2000Fed Ex expanded to ~83,200 seats, including new club seats
2004Capacity expanded to ~91,704, including new luxury seats and lower bowl seats
2011Capacity reduced to ~85,000 for standing room only end zone party decks
Source: Redskins, stadiumsofprofootball.com

"They don't publish a waiting list [but] they constantly market their inventory -- there's this notion of where do you stand?" said Marty Conway, a sports marketing consultant.

And the marketing doesn't stop there. David Russell, a former season ticket holder, said he regularly receives emails offering him not just single-game discounts but actual season ticket packages even though he is not on any waiting list. The most recent email was sent last week and offered a pair of complimentary tickets on the Club Level for the season opener with the purchase of season tickets.

Russell, who turned in his season tickets after the 2009 season, said he wonders why he is deluged with ticket offers if the Redskins actually have a waiting list for the seats.

"To still be emailed at this point, that's just desperation," he said.

The inconsistencies continue when it comes to how long people wait. Ben Reno-Weber, a former resident and season ticket holder, put in for two tickets in 2000 and made it to the top of the list in 2009. But Russell's wait was shorter -- he signed up in 2003 and was awarded the right to two season tickets for the 2008 season.

FedEx Field's capacity expanded during the last decade; however, that does not explain how names jump forward on the list.

Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie said Thursday it is the team's policy not to comment on the length of the waiting list and did not respond to other questions regarding how the list works before press time.

Conway said the list for the team likely doubles as a mailing list, which dilutes its power as an actual indicator of the team's popularity.

"From what I hear in the marketplace, it's not true that it's a quote-unquote waiting list," he said. "This is names and information collected in a different context -- people who are interested in the Redskins in general and for the purchase of merchandise."

But evidence points to the fact that fewer fans than ever are interested in season tickets. In 2001, Dave Wood, of Middleway, W.Va., got his season tickets after waiting 35 years. Although roughly 8,000 seats were added to FedEx in the 2000s, those who signed up when Wood was just receiving his tickets had less than one-third of the wait.

This summer, the Redskins removed more than 6,000 upper-deck seats for end zone party decks. Season ticket holder Patrick Mara said that ended up harming upper-deck season ticket holders.

"That prevented a lot of people from [upgrading]," he said.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Farmer

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner