Stadium Seats Cost As Much As Some Homes

fromKPR

What sports fan wouldn't enjoy the comforts of home while at a college football game? The University of Kansas is building a Grid Iron Club and investors who buy "equity seat rights" can watch the game outside or inside a luxury suite. But he comforts of home come with a home mortgage price tag.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Of all the exotic mortgages we've been hearing about recently, here's another one. It's for a premier seat at a college football game.

From Lawrence, Kansas, Kansas Public Radio's Greg Echlin explains how it works.

GREG ECHLIN: Two seasons ago, after a victory in the Orange Bowl, the Kansas Jayhawks football team finished 12-1, their best record in history.

(Soundbite of cheering fans)

Unidentified Man: Great day to be a Jayhawk. Great day to be a Jayhawk.

ECHLIN: Since then, average attendance at KU games has never been higher. Last year's average surpassed the 50,000 seat capacity. But when the season moves into the chilly months, even some of the most die-hard fans turn a cold shoulder on the outdoor elements. So, for next season, in addition to the suites on the west side, a new Gridiron Club will be built on the east side. With what is termed equity seat rights, an investor will have the option of watching the game outside or ducking inside a luxury suite with the touch and feel of a living room.

Mr. JIM MARCHIONY (Director, Associate Athletics Director): It is all the comforts of home.

ECHLIN: That's associate athletics director, Jim Marchiony.

Mr. MARCHIONY: If you get hungry, you just go inside and grab something to eat; and it's what we think, the perfect way to enjoy a game.

ECHLIN: But with the cost rivaling that of buying a house. A 30-year membership to the Gridiron Club will run more than $100,000, plus there's an annual administrative fee, the equivalent of interest. A Gridiron Club member will have the option, though, of possibly selling the seat at a higher rate years later. The concept has been actively marketed by Stadium Capital Financing, a financial group based in Chicago. The push for commitments at the University of Kansas started just this week. At the University of California in Berkeley, it's been underway since January.

Ms. SANDY BARBOUR (Director, Athletics, University of California, Berkeley): And here we have the - our campaign center, if you will, and�

ECHLIN: Sandy Barbour, athletics director here at Cal Berkeley, is inside the basketball arena, where there's a display of Cal's football future.

Ms. BARBOUR: I know I'm not objective, but it's the most beautiful place in all of America to play college football. And the model here, as we enter the campaign center, shows you a fully renovated, fully retrofitted, seismically upgraded California Memorial Stadium and Student Athlete High Performance Center.

ECHLIN: Cal already has financial commitments for 2100 of the 3000 seats in that section, that totals a whopping $170 million. Among those buying into it is Bill Osfall(ph), a retired chief financial officer in the health and consumer products industry.

Mr. BILL OSFALL: It's been brokered together and they've taken it to market at a time when interest rates are a very favorable. So, I think it makes good financial sense, as a financial guy, it makes good financial sense.

ECHLIN: If the team on the field has a losing season, the value could decline but Bill Osfall, who graduated from Cal in the early �60s, says he's not concerned that will happen.

Mr. OSFALL: Over those 50 years, we've had many more losing seasons that we've had winning seasons. So, I've been there and done that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. OSWALD: Frankly, I'm close to 70 and we look at this as doing something that is going to benefit people after us in any event.

ECHLIN: Before the Jayhawks' last home game in Lawrence, there were plenty of hotdogs on the open grills. That's where the tailgating Jayhawks' fans were still forming their opinions about the Gridiron Club. Mike Boyd(ph) grew up and still lives in Lawrence. As a donor, he has paid for one of the prime tailgating spots on the stadium's east side. But when asked about investing into the Gridiron Club, Boyd says his chances of buying a membership are slim.

Mr. MIKE BOYD: No, that would be two or three of my retirements to do that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ECHLIN: For those who do choose to invest, boosters insist there will be no place like a home game.

For NPR News, I'm Greg Echlin, in Lawrence, Kansas.

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