- The Washington Times
Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Washington Commanders are raising season-ticket prices for next season by an average of just over 4%, an increase that comes as owner Dan Snyder explores a potential sale of the franchise. 

This is the first time in almost a decade that Washington has raised prices on season-ticket holders, though not every seat will be affected. A team spokesperson said, “most of our most desirable locations are seeing small price increases.”

Ten years ago, Washington ranked third in attendance with an average of 79,654 per game. But through five home games this season, the Commanders now average 58,706 fans per game — ranking dead last in the league. 

That figure, however, is up from last season by 11.3% as the Commanders drew 52,751 at FedEx Field in 2021.

The spokesperson said one reason that prices have increased for next season — “outside of inflation and the natural increased cost to host a game,” the official wrote in an email  — is that the team has invested a “significant amount of resources” into its Gold Member season-ticket program.

The official said that the team invested almost $2 million last season in seating upgrades. Those changes included adding terrace table seating in the east and west end zones of the club level, as well as “airflow” mesh seats in the club level. The team also now provides complimentary parking for all club-level members and “year-round VIP events” that have included a trip to Busch Gardens. 

“The seats that saw the largest increase are the lower level visitors sideline where a lot of visiting fans sit,” the spokesperson said. “These are sold to Gold Members and one of the benefits of their membership is the ability to resell their tickets when they can’t attend a game. 

“Members who wish not to pay the increase for seats there, or anywhere else in the building, will be provided an opportunity to renew and relocate their seats elsewhere.”

The overall increase comes a year after the Commanders cut prices for 11,000 season-ticket seats heading into the 2022 season. In addition to those seats, a team spokesperson said another 10,000 seats were lowered for 2023. Prices begin at $399.

FedEx Field’s current capacity is 62,429. That’s lower than last season’s, 67,617, with the team again removing seats to renovate the club level and move the team’s business operations from its headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia, to the stadium. After Snyder bought the team in 1999, he began adding seats to the stadium in the following years — capacity was as high as 91,704 from 2005 to 2010 — but the team has since scaled back seating as the franchise struggled to retain its fanbase. 

The spokesperson said the Commanders have made strides in sales this season as the team ranks second in the NFL in new club tickets sold, third in new suites sales and top seven in new season ticket sales.

Washington’s increase didn’t sit well with some season-ticket holders. Tim Murray, a Maryland resident who has been an off-and-on season-ticket holder for more than 15 years, said he was mulling whether to cancel his plan after his two seats went up $180. 

Dave Tesorero, a Virginia realtor who has been a season-ticket holder for 10 years, said he was frustrated because he didn’t realize the prices had gone up until another member told him.

Tesorero said that the letter the Commanders sent him made no mention that the prices of tickets had increased from last year. 

“The way they went about that was so tricky in a sense,” Tesorero said. “If someone else had not told me that the ticket price went up, I would have not had known. It would have gotten paid automatically like it always does. There’s no announcement for it. No nothing.”

The Commanders sent two emails to fans — one on Nov. 4 and another on Nov. 9 — to let them know about season-ticket renewals. The email template, shared with The Washington Times, does not indicate whether or not the price increased, though the Nov. 4 email does note the team would be announcing “any pricing changes” the following week for season-ticket renewals. In the Nov. 9 email, which lists the member’s updated scheduled monthly installment, the team notes that members have until Jan. 20, 2023, to formally opt out of the renewal.

“Please note that any charges to your account prior to the January 20, 2023, opt-out deadline will be refunded for cancellations received by the Team prior to such date,” reads the Nov. 9 email, which notes the first installment for next season will be deducted by Dec. 1. 

The Commanders also give season-ticket holders the option of paying in full to receive a 10% discount on their package. 

The increase also comes as the Commanders were sued Thursday by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine for violating the city’s consumer protection law. Racine’s office alleges the team sought to “cheat” District fans out of thousands of dollars by withholding refundable security deposits. 

The Commanders now face two lawsuits from Racine’s office, in addition to a series of other probes from Congress, the NFL, the Virginia attorney general and the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia. 

On Nov. 2, the Commanders confirmed that Snyder has hired an investment bank to explore “potential transactions” that include a sale of the franchise. 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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