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Mike Vandermause column: The price is right, Packers fans say

Feb. 26, 2013
 
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Lifelong Wisconsin resident Brad Sauve has been waiting nearly 37 years to receive a letter from the Green Bay Packers, and it finally arrived last month.

Sauve, a resident of Spring Valley in the western part of the state, signed up for Packers season tickets in 1976, and his name finally rose to the top of pro football’s most coveted list.

But with the long wait comes a steep price. Sauve must cough up $5,390 for the privilege of owning two season tickets this year in Section 128 in the southwest corner of Lambeau Field between the end zone and 20-yard line.

That cost includes a one-time $4,200 user fee for two bench seats, plus another $1,190 for the seven-game green package.

Sauve didn’t think twice about shelling out the money, considering there are 105,000 names below him on the season ticket waiting list.

“It doesn’t pay to grumble about it, because I’m sure there’s a lot of people on that list that would trade spots with me,” Sauve said.

Packers season ticket holders seem more than willing to tolerate ever-rising ticket prices. The team announced last week a price hike for the fourth year in a row.

A 20 percent increase for end zone tickets over the past five years is far greater than the rate of inflation, but among Packers fans, no one raises an eyebrow.

“It is true that they’re raising prices a lot faster than the cost of living increases, but on the other hand, they are showing some restraint,” said Bill Wenzel, president of Titletown Tickets and Tours.

It comes down to supply and demand. The Packers can charge more because an ample number of fans are willing to pay. And in the secondary market, tickets sell for well beyond face value.

Aaron Popkey, Packers director of public affairs, said there’s a 99.9 percent renewal rate for season ticket holders. That means only 119 names came off the list last year.

At that rate, someone signing up for season tickets today might become eligible in a few hundred years.

It’s a far cry from when Lambeau Field, then known as City Stadium, opened in 1957. Back then, the Packers put a big emphasis on their season ticket drive.

Incredibly, an end-zone, three-game season ticket package could be purchased for $6.75, according to longtime Packers observer Cliff Christl. Single-game prices ranged from 75 cents for kids tickets to $4.75 for sideline seats.

“When people complain about longtime season ticket holders hanging on to their seats, I say tough luck,” Christl said. “The Packers were in desperate need of money in 1957 and anyone could have purchased four season tickets for a total of $27 and still have them in their family today. Yet almost 10,000 seats went unsold. It was those original ticket holders who saved the franchise.”

Lambeau Field wasn’t even 20 years old when Sauve signed up for tickets after attending a training camp practice, and he was approximately No. 7,500 on the list.

Sauve was offered gold-package season tickets in the 1990s but declined because he wanted more than three games per season.

By last year, he climbed to No. 15 on the list and knew his dream was imminent.

There are times Sauve wishes he had signed up for four tickets instead of two, but then the reality of an $8,400 user fee hits him.

Despite the popular notion that season tickets are a good investment, Sauve doesn’t view it that way.

“One thing people always tell you is if you don’t want to use them all you can scalp them and make money,” he said.

But Sauve doesn’t plan to do that. He instead will attend a few games and distribute the other tickets to family and friends.

The expansion of Lambeau Field this season will flood the market with 7,000 additional tickets and bring the stadium capacity to nearly 80,000.

That will reduce the season-ticket waiting list by about 3,500 names, according to Popkey.

But Wenzel said it also could drive down ticket prices in the secondary market.

Some worry that ticket demand could plummet if the Packers suffer an extended stretch of losing like they did in the 1970s and 1980s, and others wonder if that will invite more opposing fans into Lambeau.

“I remember when I first started in this business in the ’80s, it’s certainly possible we could go back to that kind of climate for at least some of the games,” Wenzel said.

But for now, times are good and demand should remain high, according to Wenzel, especially for good seats.

“The way the Packers are playing now, as long as they’re good, fans are pretty high on them, stars sell tickets,” he said.

The Lambeau Mystique also doesn’t hurt.

“I’ve been to almost every stadium in the country and very few can match the overall experience,” Wenzel said. “Not only what a fantastic stadium it is for watching a game, if you can get over the fact that you’re sitting on a bench. It’s got to be one of the best views in all of football.”

Some will even say it’s worth waiting decades for that view, at any price.

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
573 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
23%
856 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1013 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1271 votes

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