If you're an Eagles fan in the market for an SBL - that's "stadium builder license" to the uninitiated - now is the time to open your checkbook.
The recession has affected more than just one market: It's driven down the demand for stadium builder licenses - more commonly known as personal seat licenses - at Lincoln Financial Field. Prices for the costly SBLs have dipped nearly 20 percent, according to Season Ticket Rights, "an online marketplace where fans buy and sell seat licenses."
So while it would seem the Eagles' NFC championship game appearance and what is being hailed as a great draft would increase demand, the economy has turned SBL trade into a buyers' market.
"There are two things that affect team-to-team prices. One is team performance, two is the local economy," said Kyle Burks, president and founder of Season Ticket Rights. "This is the perfect time to buy because this is the lowest the prices have been since the stadium opened."
Before the Linc opened in 2003, the Eagles managed to sell seat licenses for 29,000 of the stadium's 68,000 seats, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal. Seat licensing at new stadiums has became a very popular way to procure revenue for sports franchises, and the Eagles were able to sell $70 million worth of licenses during the initial sale.
The team's success, though, and a booming economy created an open market that saw prices jump from an average of $2,233 in 2002 to $7,300 in 2007. An 8-8 record in 2007 partly accounted for a fall to $4,700. As of last week, Season Ticket Rights has bartered 2009 SBLs for an average of $3,800.
Ticket brokers have benefited from the Eagles' winning ways and what was, a few years ago, a robust economy. Jeff Weinberg of Philadelphia-based Seatmeat Inc. said he owns "more than 50" licenses at the Linc. On his Web site, phillysbl.com, he deals mainly with Eagles SBLs.
"I wouldn't say the prices are necessarily lower," said Weinberg, who did acknowledge that agreeing that the market was flagging would be bad advertising for his business. "There's certainly a decreased desire to own them because of the economy."
Weinberg pointed to one off-season transaction that may have accounted for some of the indifference. "I know people who said 'That's enough' when [safety] Brian Dawkins left," he said.
Nevertheless, the bargain prices are good news for fans who want great season tickets and are willing to "own" their seats as long as the licenses are more affordable. SBLs on the lower level at the Linc are selling for just over $6,000 at Season Ticket Rights. Two years ago, they cost nearly $8,000.
Club-level SBLs are for the taking at $1,583, but there's a caveat. The season tickets for those seats, which went for $5,800 in 2007, are much more expensive. Corporations or the rich usually own those seats, but the economic plunge has forced companies to liquidate what have now become luxuries.
"I'm flooded with club seats because companies can't justify having them while at the same time laying people off," Weinberg said. "They're willing to take anything just to get out of the lease."
But your average Joe Eagle fan can't afford both the license and the season tickets, so the market for the lower-level SBLs is still fairly strong.
Joe Marseco, a 40-year-old general contractor from West Deptford, Gloucester County, took out a newspaper ad four months ago in search of his ideal SBL.
"I've gotten some calls," Marseco said. "But some people are ridiculous with their asking prices. They're unrealistic like they are in real estate. I anticipated there being more calls because of the economy, but people love their sports."
Marseco estimated that 70 percent of the calls he's received have been those looking to unload club-level licenses. He said he's willing to spend $7,000 for a seat on the visitors' side, so that he could be near his brother-in-law.
"The more I look at it, the more I look at it as a stock investment," said Marseco, who originally gave up his season tickets when the Eagles moved out of Veterans Stadium. "The company [the Eagles] is doing well."
Burks said he has many clients who invest in SBLs as if they were blue-chip stocks. For many, it is a less risky investment than, say, mutual funds because they consider themselves experts on the teams.
"I know a guy that owns 1,000 [personal seat licenses] for eight teams across the country," Burks said. "Let's say the Eagles have a good season in 2009. You could see prices jump 50 percent next year."
Burks, Weinberg, and others like them take a 5 percent cut from buyer and seller. The Eagles have the fourth-largest market for SBLs, according to Season Ticket Rights, behind Chicago, Pittsburgh and Seattle.
Chicago, Baltimore, Houston and St. Louis have become partners with Season Ticket Rights for it to be their exclusive seat license reseller. The Eagles have not made such a deal with any outlet.
In a statement, the team said: "Over the years, we have had numerous discussions with a number of companies offering to assist in the marketing of stadium builder licenses. We have also held discussions with our fans and season ticket-holders, and to date they, and we, are comfortable with the verification support we provide."
To make a transaction, the team requires an official ticket agreement, along with notarized signatures from both parties. Weinberg was at the Linc last week for one such transfer.
"The Eagles would be happy to be partners if they could get their number," Weinberg said. "But as long as they don't get involved, there will always be a second market. I started the Web site because the Eagles wouldn't provide the service."
On its Web site, Season Ticket Rights claims that it "operates the world's largest set of online marketplaces for renewal rights." Burks said he's starting to handle a number of sales for spots on season-ticket waiting lists; the Eagles have a considerably long one.
"Everything is for sale," Burks said, "as long as it's transferrable."