Scott Fowler

PSL FAQs: What happens next for Carolina Panthers fans?

Fans cheer Panthers at Unknown Brewing send-off

Fans cheer passing Carolina Panthers buses during the Unknown Brewery team send-off Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, at Unknown Brewery along south Mint Street, as the Panthers depart for New Orleans and Sunday's playoff game. The send-offs began this sea
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Fans cheer passing Carolina Panthers buses during the Unknown Brewery team send-off Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, at Unknown Brewery along south Mint Street, as the Panthers depart for New Orleans and Sunday's playoff game. The send-offs began this sea

The Carolina Panthers’ future is up in the air after team owner Jerry Richardson said he would sell the team in December on the same day that Sports Illustrated published a story in which Richardson was alleged to have committed workplace misconduct.

Here are some frequently-asked questions about PSLs – the permanent-seat licenses that are attached to more than 62,000 seats in Bank of America Stadium.

Q. Say you own a PSL. If the Panthers’ new ownership group decides to build a new stadium or moves the team to another city entirely, is that PSL worthless?

A. Yes. The PSL expires when the stadium expires – it says as much on the very first page of the original contract for “Permanent Seat Licenses.”

Q. But would the Panthers give a discount or some sort of preferential treatment to current PSL holders for a new Charlotte-area stadium if they wanted to buy a PSL again?

A. This seems likely. Max Muhleman, inventor of the PSL, believes the PSL holder “rights” should be transferred to a proposed new stadium at no cost. But even he concedes that is unrealistic.

I believe a substantial discount and perhaps a “right of first refusal” for a similar seat would be the only way to avoid widespread alienation from current Panthers PSL holders (of which there are 62,000, spread over 23,000 accounts).

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Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly obliged a fan's request to take a photo at training camp in 2017. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Q. How many Panthers PSL holders have owned their seats since the team started playing in uptown Charlotte in 1996?

A. Slightly more than half of those 62,000 seats are controlled by original PSL holders.

Q. Do the Panthers believe they are moving?

A. No. Not from the stadium and not from the city.

Although the Panthers would not comment for this story, it’s apparent by their recent actions they believe they will stay in Bank of America Stadium for a long while to come (although they are not contractually obligated to do so beyond the 2018 season).

For instance, the Panthers are still are selling PSLs right now and they have spent tens of millions of their own money – the city has chipped in a similar amount – upgrading the stadium in recent years.

However, no one really knows what will happen until the new owner arrives.

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Carolina Panthers fan L.T. Hipp had his face painted at the Panthers’ annual free Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium in August 2017. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Q. What if you want to roll the dice and buy a Panthers PSL anyway despite the uncertainty? How do you do that?

A. The Panthers have an inventory of more than 1,000 PSLs they will happily sell you. But don’t expect a bargain rate. In general, their prices have increased substantially since the original offering in 1993, when PSLs cost anywhere from $600 to $5,400.

If the Panthers had a 50-yard lower-deck PSL turned into them these days, for instance (which is unlikely given that’s a valuable commodity), they might offer it in the neighborhood of $25,000 instead of its original cost of around $5,000.

Because I buy some Panthers single-game tickets every year, I was recently (and politely) approached by a Panthers ticket salesman about buying PSLs.

The team offered two upper-deck seats for $3,000 each and two better upper-deck seats for $5,000 each. I declined.

Q. That sounds steep. How else could you buy a PSL right now?

A. You can buy one directly from somebody who owns one, often at a cheaper rate than you could buy it from the Panthers. The independent website PSLSource.com is well-known among many fans around the NFL who own PSLs (which are called different things in different markets, but based on the same concepts). The cheapest Panthers PSL currently listed on that website is $900.

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton slaps hands with fans following a 2016 victory at Bank of America Stadium. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Q. If the Panthers did issue new PSLs to help with the construction of a new stadium, how much would those cost?

A. Get ready for sticker shock. Depending on seat location – with the lowest prices equating to the worst upper-deck seats – the Dallas Cowboys’ prices for PSLs went from $2,000 to $150,000.

The San Francisco 49ers charged anywhere from $2,000 to $80,000. The Atlanta Falcons’ prices ranged from $500 to $45,000. The Minnesota Vikings’ prices ranged from $500 to $9,500.

All NFL teams offering PSLs generally also offer a financing package so you don’t have to come up with all this money at once.

Q. If the Panthers did build a new stadium or moved to another city, would all 62,000 PSL holders take this lying down?

A. Unlikely. In St. Louis, where PSLs helped to finance a new stadium before the Rams were moved to Los Angeles, there were at least four separate lawsuits filed by Rams fans.

Q. How many games have the Panthers sold out in a row under the current format, in which their 62,000 PSL holders have to buy season tickets every year or lose rights to their seats?

A. 157. It is this number that should prove heartening to current PSL holders. A new owner might be hard-pressed to walk away from guaranteed sellouts and an enthusiastic fan base – the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy.

Q. Is the PSL concept common throughout the NFL now?

A. Yes. The PSLsource.com website lists 16 teams that sell some version of what Muhleman created.

Q. Let’s talk about the short term. At least we know the Panthers are in Bank of America Stadium for the 2018 season. Will Panthers ticket prices go up this year?

A. That has not yet been decided. Panthers ticket prices traditionally are in the middle of the pack of the NFL – Muhleman notes that Richardson did a good job over the years not letting ticket prices creep too high. But a ticket price increase would certainly be under consideration for a team that has made four playoff appearances in the past five years.

Q. If I want to just go to a game or two in 2018, do I have to buy a PSL?

A. No. The Panthers and owner Jerry Richardson have always preserved about 7,000 tickets per game – 10 percent of the stadium – for single-game ticket buyers. Those go on sale sometime in the spring. Expect the home game with Dallas to be the hottest seller.

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The Carolina Panthers’ home game against Dallas in 2018 will likely draw huge interest when single-game tickets go on sale sometime this spring. Whether the Panthers will raise ticket prices for the 2018 season has not yet been announced. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Q. Why did the Panthers settle on a stadium with more than 70,000 seats anyway back in the mid-1990s (75,525, actually, according to the Panthers website)? That seems like a lot of seats.

A. According to Muhleman, Richardson decided to build a stadium seating 70,000-plus in part because former Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie told him he could never host a Super Bowl without building at least that many seats.

The Panthers still have never hosted a Super Bowl, of course. But might get one “Thank you” Super Bowl, Muhleman said, if they build a domed stadium that would cost in excess of $1 billion. Muhleman is not in favor of this idea, believing the current stadium is viable for decades to come.

Q. Would it be easy for a new NFL owner to move the team anywhere he or she wants to?

A. No. The NFL has already stated it prefers that the Panthers stay in Charlotte to keep “stability” in the league. And a new owner would also need to get approval from three-fourths of the league’s 31 other owners to make such a move.

Researcher Maria David contributed.

Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140, @scott_fowler

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