Exterior photo of the Chase Center. Home of the Golden State Warriors.

Image Credit: Tony Wasserman (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Beginning in 2019, the Golden State Warriors will be the first team in NBA history to require their fans to purchase a personal seat license (PSL) in order to buy season tickets. The new rule will begin when the Warriors move to downtown San Francisco and begin playing at the newly constructed Chase Center. What exactly is a personal seat license?

A personal seat license is an agreement between a team and fan that obligates the fan to purchase season tickets for X amount of seasons. The Golden State Warriors organization is forcing their fans to sign a 30-year personal seat license agreement in order to have the ability to even purchase season tickets. Fans are then required to pay for both preseason and regular season games as well as the additional fees that are involved with the process. In this case, Warriors fans will be required to pay a one-time PSL fee that will get refunded back to them 30 years later. The Golden State Warriors are calling the PSL fee a “membership fee”.

Personal seat licenses are utilized most often in the National Football League where purchasing season tickets is not as big of an obligation. NFL season ticket packages are limited to only 8 regular season home games each season. For a 41 home game basketball season, a personal seat license is a much larger obligation which is why the Golden State Warriors are the first team to experiment with this system. Personal seat licenses have become very popular in the Bay Area. Al Davis, former owner of the Oakland Raiders, was one of the first NFL owners to operate on a PSL system. The San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers also utilized PSLs to help build their home stadiums.

Exterior photo of the Oracle Arena. Former home of the Golden State Warriors.

Image Credit: May Wong (CC BY 2.0)

What if a team raises their ticket prices and you can no longer afford them? What if you relocate and can no longer attend a team’s home games? You’ll have to pray that someone else is willing to purchase your personal seat license from you. Companies such as PSL Source and STR Marketplace act as middlemen between PSL owners and buyers. The Golden State Warriors are giving fans the option to transfer their personal seat licenses to other fans but only via a marketplace approved by the organization. However, that doesn’t mean that someone else will want them ten years from now. The likelihood of the Golden State Warriors continuing their dominance even five years into the future is highly unlikely. In rarer cases, season ticket holders are able to profit off of their personal seat licenses and sell them for more than what they originally paid for them.

The Golden State Warriors have won two NBA championships in the last three seasons. That’s not exactly what fans would call a dynasty although they’re definitely headed in the right direction. It’s foolish for the Golden State Warriors organization to think that they’ve got the dedicated fan base that the Pittsburgh Steelers or Green Bay Packers have. In this case, the Golden State Warriors are simply burdened with a $160 million payroll next season as well as mounting construction costs of an arena that will cost $1 billion to finish.

There are currently less than 15,000 season ticket holders at Oracle Arena; a venue that holds just under 20,000 for basketball games. Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts has gone on record to say that the team is expecting to sell between 11,000 and 12,000 season tickets when the Chase Center opens. Half of those personal seat licenses will require one-time fees of less than $15,000. The other half will cost a one-time fee of more than $15,000. The Warriors are allowing fans to pay the membership fee in several future installments if they aren’t able to pay the total sum up front. The bulk of the upper level seats at the Chase Center will be sold on an individual game basis; the norm for most NBA teams. 

Rick Welts argues that this is not a personal seat license program since the Warriors will refund fans the one-time upfront fee at the end of the 30 year period. Adjusted for inflation, that money won’t be worth much down the road. If you’re willing to go out on a limb and commit to 30 seasons as a season ticket holder for the Golden State Warriors you need to be three things; wealthy, a passionately devoted fan and void of obligations 41 nights per year. Hey! There’s always Stubhub! It’s also important to note that the Bay Area taxpayers aren’t on the hook for the brand spanking new Chase Center. Bay Area residents pay enough taxes as it is.





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