The New England Patriots are giving season ticket holders the option of passing their seats on to immediate family members, but some fans are upset about the high transfer cost of $2,000 to $5,000 per ticket.
Under the new ''Pass It On" transfer program, up to 1,000 seats will be approved for transfer each off-season. The cost per transfer for each ticket will be $5,000 for lower-level sideline seats, $3,500 for lower-level end zone and all second-level seats, and $2,000 for all upper-level seats.
In a brochure mailed to season ticket holders this week, the Patriots said they were discontinuing their no-transfer policy so that fans could continue to enjoy games generation after generation. ''Perhaps you've done so with a son or daughter, brother or sister," the brochure said. ''Wouldn't you like to know in the event you can no longer attend the games that they would continue to benefit from the tradition you started?"
Tom Maguire, whose father's death resulted in the revocation of the family's season tickets last year after an emotional struggle with the team, said he was amazed the team had dropped its opposition to transfers.
''At least they're making it an option for people to do it and they're not forcing it down their throats," Maguire said. ''But it's ludicrous, charging that much."
Other fans had similar reactions. Frank P. Baker of Sharon, who received his two lower-level seats from his father-in-law in 1982 when the team was allowing free transfers, applauded the Patriots for providing a way for fans to pass seats on. But he said the $10,000 in fees to transfer his seats to his sons was very high.
Carl Moore of Wrentham, who owns six season tickets that he shares with his sons, was blown away by the high price. ''It's a seat tax. That's what it is," he said
The new transfer fee appears to be unique in the National Football League. Patriots spokesman Stacey James said he was not aware of any other team with a transfer fee.
Ticket-transfer policies vary among sports teams. In Boston, the Bruins and Celtics allow their season ticket holders to transfer tickets at no cost, but the Red Sox prohibit transfers. Among NFL teams, the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers allow free transfers to immediate family members, while the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers allow free transfers to anyone.
Many NFL teams, including the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles, financed their stadiums by selling personal seat licenses, which typically have a one-time fee of several hundred to several thousand dollars and entitle the owner to buy a specific set of season tickets each year. The licenses are an asset that can be sold or transferred to anyone.
The Patriots financed Gillette Stadium privately and didn't require fans to pay a large upfront fee just to continue buying seats in the new stadium. In 2002, when the team moved into its new stadium, it prohibited all transfers.
But team officials said yesterday that many fans have indicated they would be willing to pay a fee to be able to pass their tickets along to a family member. The officials said the new transfer fee was partly based on what other teams are charging for personal seat licenses. The Carolina Panthers, for example, charge between $2,000 and $20,000 for personal seat licenses, according to that team's website.
James, the Patriots spokesman, said the new transfer program is limited to 1,000 ticket transfers a year. The rules for the program also allow season ticket holders to pay their transfer fee now, at the entry level price, and complete the transfer any time as long as the Patriots are playing in Gillette Stadium. If the transfer isn't completed before the ticket owner dies, the ticket would be transferred to designated beneficiaries, the team brochure said.
The rules allow transfer fees to be paid in installments over three years. If more than 1,000 transfers are requested, the decision will be based on seniority. A top-priced season ticket, which includes preseason games, costs approximately $1,250. That means a transfer fee of $5,000 would cost about four times the ticket itself.
Bruce Mohl can be reached at email@example.com.