Some longtime Carolina Panthers’ season ticket holders are peeved that they didn’t get the chance to buy Super Bowl tickets – as well as how they got the bad news.
The Panthers say their total allotment of Super Bowl tickets is less than 10,000. They designated that between 7,500 and 8,000 of those tickets go to permanent seat license owners, Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said. The others go to players’ and coaches’ families and friends and others affiliated with the team.
This week, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said he would pay for his entire full-time staff members and interns to travel to Santa Clara, Calif., for the Super Bowl. They get airfare for two, a hotel room and two tickets, a Panthers source said.
It’s not surprising that season-ticket holders are disappointed they can’t go to the Feb. 7 final matchup against the Denver Broncos.
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Over a dozen season-ticket holders who contacted the Observer were original PSL owners and felt their investment in the franchise over 20 years ago should give them preference for tickets to the Panthers’ second-ever Super Bowl.
In 1993, the Panthers sold $150 million in PSLs to help finance the cost of their home stadium. The PSL granted its holder the right to a particular seat at the stadium so long as the buyer keeps getting season tickets.
Today, PSL owners buy season tickets that range from $430 to $4,300.
“Mr. Richardson needs to understand that his franchise would not have been possible without the deposits of 40,000 PSL owners in 1993,” said Hughston Caldwell of Indian Trail, a PSL owner since the beginning who did not get Super Bowl tickets.
Longtime PSL owners had a better chance to get Super Bowl tickets based on the formula the Panthers used: the number of years as a PSL owner times the number of tickets on the account.
So the longer you have been a PSL owner, and the more seats you have on your account, the higher the chance you have of being selected. Newer PSL owners still have a chance to get tickets – that chance is just lower.
Ed Proctor, a Dallas resident who used to live in Mooresville, says he has had season tickets in the upper deck 500 level for 21 years, and his name wasn’t drawn for Super Bowl tickets. He said he wonders if those in lower-level expensive seats get a better chance at tickets to the big game.
The Panthers declined to comment further on the process of drawing names for Super Bowl tickets.
Proctor briefly considered but ultimately decided against buying tickets off the secondary market, which are averaging over $6,000 (compared with the NFL-issued tickets for the Panthers, which range from $850-$3,000.)
“My son and I set aside a Super Bowl fund since the inception of this team in 1995 hoping this day would come and we’d be able to go. We’ve been hoarding airline miles and hotel points,” Proctor said.
Mike Hagee of Concord, also a season-ticket holder since 1995, preemptively booked airfare and a hotel in San Francisco after the Panthers beat the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. His name wasn’t selected to buy Super Bowl tickets through the Panthers’ drawing, so he bought two tickets from a reseller for $8,000.
When he returns from Santa Clara, Hagee said he will be selling his three PSL tickets to “restore his savings account.”
“I will still be a Panthers fan, but only from the comfort of my Panther den, where the game is cheap and the food and beverage are cheaper,” Hagee said.
Other PSL owners said they were frustrated about the way the Panthers alerted fans – via regular mail – that their names were drawn to buy tickets. Panthers ticketing director Phil Youtsey said the ticketing office doesn’t have “100 percent penetration” with emailing notifications.
Mike Bradshaw of Denver, N.C., is another charter PSL owner with four seats. He got a letter saying he was not selected in the Super Bowl drawing. An email that would have arrived quickly, he said, would have been much more effective, especially for securing the best rates for airfare and hotels.
What’s more, ticket prices on the secondary market are likely to rise as the big game approaches.
“If you’re going to get bad news, you would rather get it as soon as possible,” Bradshaw said.
Same goes with Ron Martell, a PSL owner of four tickets since 2006. He lives in Austin but is in New York City until Feb. 3, so he wouldn’t be able to see a letter that arrives at his Texas house informing him whether he could buy tickets or not.
He calls the Panthers’ rationale about email penetration an “insult” considering technology today.
“I suspect some PSL winners will be unable to collect their rewards due to the Panthers’ extremely poor ticket notification and buying process,” Martell said.
A voice message on the Denver Broncos’ ticket line says that season ticket holders whose names were selected to buy Super Bowl tickets were notified via email of the results of the drawing. Signing onto one’s online account gives instructions on how to pick up tickets.
Spokeswoman Rebecca Villanueva said a percentage of the Broncos’ limited ticket allotment was distributed to season-ticket holders by a computer-generated lottery system weighted by season-ticket tenure. The team wouldn’t provide the number of tickets that go to season-ticket holders.