Being a Bears fan isn’t cheap.
A couple of decent end zone seats are $100 each. Parking costs about 50 bucks. Throw in a few beers and a couple of bratwursts, and you're out about 300 bucks a game — at least.
That’s the math that convinced Jeffery Schwede — a lifelong Bears fan whose family has had season tickets since the Bears played at Wrigley Field — to do something some of his fellow die-hard fans might call sacrilege.
Schwede gave up season tickets that had been in his family for three generations and hawked his personal seat license, which had allowed him the opportunity to buy the seats since Soldier Field was renovated.
“I’m 56, and a lot of my friends are done going out in the cold and getting soaking wet when they can watch it at home,” Schwede said. “I don’t think my wife really wanted to go on $300 outdoor dates 10 times in the fall. And we’ve got a 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old daughter in travel volleyball and softball. They’ve got 47 games coming up.”
With Bears season ticket down payments due April 4, some Bears fans might be interested in the silver lining of Schwede's sad season ticket saga: The retired United Airlines worker pocketed a $10,000 profit.
In 2003, Schwede bought the licenses for $2,000. He recently put them up for sale on the Bears online PSL marketplace for $16,000 and sold them for $12,000.
That’s a 500 percent return on his PSL investment in 10 years.
And he’s not the only fan cashing in on the bull market on Bears PSLs.
A few months ago, a season ticket holder unloaded four PSLs that originally sold for $4,400 apiece for more than $200,000, Bears vice president of sales and marketing Chris Hibbs said.
Seat licenses that originally went for $900 and $4,500 sold for $2,580 - $18,813 in the last six months, according to sales data on the Bears website.
The Bears list about 1,000 PSLs for sale, starting at $500 for each of four club-level corner seats. The most expensive listed is $87,500 per seat in the front row on the 20-yard line. (Better than the 50-yard line, the seller maintains. "Half of scoring right in your face.")
“PSL value is outstanding, and it says a lot about the Bears as a strong brand, that fans like the performance on the field and that the team is going in the right direction,” Hibbs said. “But even though the value of PSLs has gone up a lot, I’ve heard many stories from fans who say they’d never give them up.”
Larry Wall is one of those guys.
He’s got four seats eight rows off the field near the north end zone. Some folks sitting nearby sold PSLs that cost $1,300 each in 2003 for close to $20,000, Wall said.
“It was pretty tempting. I could have sold them and pocketed 80K, enough to put my kids through college,” he said. “But where was I going to get seats again eight rows up? I couldn’t do it.”
Sports marketing expert Marc Ganis says seat license holders in other big NFL towns also have seen values increase, but generally fans don’t buy seat licenses as an investment.
Not all PSLs sold on the secondary market net a profit. In NFL stadiums, the least expensive and most expensive PSLs generally sell for the biggest profits, Ganis said.
And because PSLs generally only last for the term of a team’s stadium lease — 2033 for Bears fans — the license is considered more of a “declining asset” than an investment.
What makes PSL values go up on the secondary market, Ganis said, is a strong demand for tickets to Bears games, which have sold out for 29 straight seasons.
I’m no financial whiz, but strong demand probably explains why prices have gone up on another “declining asset” — game-day beers.
Makes you wonder how much a souvenir pint of Miller Lite will cost in 20 years.