Just how much do corporate boxes make for teams anyway?

I hear a lot about greedy owners of sports teams threatening to move the team if the city doesn’t finance some brand new arena with expensive box seats. The thing is, from my experience, I know my Lakers have courtside seats in the thousands for each game. All those movie stars in the first row are not paying chump change, and that’s for every game.

That got me wondering just exactly how much do these suites in the new stadiums cost a year? Anyone work for a corporation or a stadium that can shed some light on exactly how much owners can make on these seats compared to older stadiums that don’t have them?

Here’s a PDF that lists the single game suite prices for the United Center.

At a minimum price of $4350 for a 20 person suite in the crappiest suite level you’re looking at $218 a ticket. Considering that regular game tickets in the 300 level just below the “Penthouse” suites go for $35-$70 that’s a pretty hefty upsell.

With the one available Club level suite going for more than double that at $10k for 20 people, $500 per ticket, versus just $75-$110 for 200 level seats you get an even steeper premium.

Recently many of the worst Club level suites have been converted into the new Harris Club and more posh Theater Boxes, the former being available for individual season seat purchase only at a average of $175 per seat and the latter for groups of 4 per season at about $270 per seat. Mind you both of those get you both Bulls AND Blackhawks games if I’m reading it right, so it’s a pretty hefty discount compared to the single game Club suite.

There’s no public information on what the Lower Level Executive Suites go for but considering the 100 level seats go for $110-$155 you can guess that they are probably something like $700-$900 per ticket if they scale similarly to the other two levels, though for all levels buying season tickets pretty dramatically reduces the per set/per game price.

The United Center now has 169 suites, most are available for 20 people, giving you an approximate total of 3380 extra seats. 60 of those suites are at the Lower level for about $960,000 per game in revenue. There used to be 72 in the Club level but about 30 of those have been chopped to make those new Suites concepts so we’ll guess that the traditional Club suites bring in $420,000 per game. There are 79 crummy Penthouse Suites that could bring in $345,000.

So, the UC’s traditional suites could bring in approximately $1.725M per game if they were all booked up. Considering the layout it’s unlikely that they’d be able to up the number of traditional seats in those spaces by more than say 20% so if we figured they could fit an extra 4000 traditional seats in their place at an average price of $80 they only take in $320,000 per game.

You might quibble with my estimated numbers and there’s a case to be made that those 300 level seats have their value depressed by the added distance from the action, but I think it’s safe to assume that the Bulls are able to count on an extra $1.2-$1.4M per game from those suites which is about $50M per year in extra cash.

There is lots of added overhead in suites, with catering, sales staff and amenities but I’m sure it’s not a million dollars worth. Plus the suites are leverage to be used with negotiations with advertising and business partners which is a difficult thing to quantify. Needless to say United Airlines, Budweiser, Pepsi and Gatorade probably end up being relieved of plenty of extra money as a result of those boxes one way or another.

A lot:

Older ballparks have fewer of these suites (if they have them at all), and don’t have the latest luxuries.

I think a key part of stadium suites is that they were a way for team owners to get around contracts about sharing of gate receipts. AFAIK, contracts as they were originally written provided that the home team got X% of the gate (ie the money from ticket sales) and the visiting team got (100-X)%. The original contracts did not contemplate suite rental, so team owners that had suites could get money that they didn’t have to share with the visiting team, which is of course a decided advantage. I think that loophole has been closed now, or else because since every team has suites now there is not any reason to close it since the revenue all comes out in the wash.