Chicago Bears Lawsuit Sheds Light On The Cost of NFL Seat Licenses

Have you ever wondered just how much dough it takes to watch an NFL game among the one-percenters in the luxury suites?

Thanks to a recent lawsuit filed by the Chicago Bears, now we all know. The Bears sued Chicago-based venture capital firm Flynn Enterprises, Inc. in Cook County on Tuesday for breaching a luxury suite licensing agreement. Flynn Enterprises allegedly failed to pay this season’s $173,600 license fee. (entire Complaint below)

But the Bears don’t just want this year’s license fee, they want the entire value of the original contract — and the numbers are astounding.

If Flynn is found to have willfully breached this executive suite license agreement, then it would owe the Bears $1.57 million, plus interest, court costs, and reasonable attorney fees aka, probably the cost of another luxury suite.

The Bears and Flynn entered into a 10-year contract in which Flynn agreed to pay the following amounts for Soldier Field Executive Suite D14:

2011 – $160,600
2012 – $167,000
2013 – $173,600
2014 – $180,400
2015 – $187,600
2016 – $195,000
2017 – $202,800
2018 – $210,800
2019 – $210,800
2020 – $210,800

Interestingly, the alleged deadbeat licensee, Flynn Enterprises, should not be hurting for money. Flynn was one of the investors who ended up controlling Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. in 1987 until it was sold to Viacom Inc. in 1994. Flynn Enterprises’ Executive Vice President, Brian Flynn put his 6,000 square foot Gold Coast home on the market in 2010 for $3.75 million.

Although suites costing north of $200,000 is becoming the norm in the NFL, the taxpayers in Chicago might be wondering where all that money is going.

Taxpayers contributed $432 million to the Soldier Field renovation and reopening in 2003.

But why did the Bears need almost half a billion dollars in public money? According to the Bears’ website, Soldier Field has 133 luxury suites. That means if we very conservatively assume that every suite costs $173,600 this season, then the Bears will take in about $23.1 million in suite license fees alone. The average Personal Seat License (PSL) fee at Soldier Field is $2,380. If the Bears sold out the 61,000 seat stadium with PSLs (not factoring in the actual cost of a game ticket), then they would make $145.2 million per season in PSLs in addition to the $23.1 million from luxury suites.

Granted, the Bears are near the top of the NFL’s $123 million salary cap with a $118 million payroll. But when a team is taking in so much money on suite and seat licenses, it is curious how it also gets to raid the public coffers.

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