|Tuesday, September 10
Updated: September 11, 6:50 PM ET
There's no passing the buck in sports
By Darren Rovell
The lines have grown long at airports and at stadiums from Boston to Los Angeles and from Miami to Seattle since Sept. 11.
In the year since terrorists struck at the core of the country's economy, federal spending on domestic security will have doubled to more than $37 billion. And the cost for ensuring fan safety at sports venues designated National Special Security Events, such as the Super Bowl in New Orleans ($6 million) and the Winter Olympic in Salt Lake City ($300 million for the two-week event), account for part of that growing pool of funds.
So who's paying for all this protection?
Airline passengers have been assessed a $2.50 federal security surcharge on each leg of every flight. Perhaps some day soon, fans at sporting events might see similar fees attached to ticket prices. For now, at least, most are given a free pass.
Unlike the airline industry, the sports industry has remained largely untouched by the financial affects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Attendance has remained steady or even risen for most professional and college basketball and football teams, and the turnstiles at Major League Baseball games turn with regularity again after its owners and players averted a work stoppage. But increased security costs and the doubling and even tripling of insurance premiums on stadiums and arenas are mounting.
"In business, there are just certain costs you just eat," said Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and co-owner of American Airlines Center. "Usually it's because they were unexpected and even though it costs you money, the demand aspect of pricing determines that you can't raise prices even if you wanted to. Pricing is far more a function of demand than it is of costs."
Lease agreements signed with local stadium authorities prior to the Sept. 11 attacks have protected most teams from increased security costs.
"It never gets to the fans because we're the ones that are eating those increased costs," said Dan Emmer, director of public affairs for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which owns Giants Stadium.
In Tampa Bay, the Tampa Sports Authority's insurance on Raymond James Stadium expires Oct. 1. It is looking for new insurance, but the Buccaneers won't be sharing in any increased cost -- at least not until after the 2026 season, when it's stadium lease expires.
Fans of the expansion Houston Texans might be helping foot the bill for new Reliant Stadium, with a $2 surcharge on tickets and a $1 tax on parking. For now, at least, there is no fee related to security cost increases, Texans spokesperson Brent Williamson said.
Teams shouldn't have to chip in for insurance or security premiums, says Bruce Sommer, director of the America's Center, which consists of the Edward Jones Dome and the nearby convention complex.
"Even if the Rams weren't playing here, we'd still be paying for it," he said. Increased security costs were modest, Sommer said, since more changes were to reposition personnel rather than hiring additional personnel.
The leagues also have done their part to help teams deal with the new reality that their stadiums and arenas could be potential targets for a terrorist attack. Last year, the NFL Players Association agreed to reduce the Designated Gross Revenues (which ultimately helps determine the salary cap) by a maximum of $250,000 per team in order to ensure that team security is kept up to par.
Last season, the NBA spent "in the low seven figures" on investing in security personnel that would travel around with teams and be on the lookout at arenas, according to NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik.
"We've been happy that fans seem to appreciate what we've done," Granik said. "It never came up that we should charge them for it. It's really more the cost of doing business these days."
"I'm not sure if we're going to continue doing the exact things we did last year, but I don't want to get lax," Maloof said.
Even if the Kings do continue to spend significantly more on security than ever before, Maloof said he doubts that fans will get hit with the charge.
"If we ever considered doing that, I'm sure we would charge exactly what the security costs us," Maloof said. "I know there's a temptation to mark it up and say it's for security, but we definitely wouldn't do that."
Even in New York, which took the brunt of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, fans haven't received a larger bill because of security or insurance costs. The Yankees and Mets were among 10 major-league teams that didn't raise ticket prices this season, while the Knicks won't be raising their prices for seats this upcoming season, a Knicks spokesman said.
The Washington Redskins and the Chicago Bears, two of the NFL teams that raised ticket prices this season, said the costs related to the events of Sept. 11 aren't the primary reason for the increase.
The Redskins raised ticket prices by $4 this season, which is attributed to increase in operating costs, said team spokesman Karl Swanson. The team will reportedly pay 20 to 25 percent more for stadium insurance this year, but Swanson said it would be inaccurate to say that the increase in operating expenses were largely due to the insurance and security costs.
The Bears had one of the largest ticket increases this year, but team spokesperson Scott Hagel said that it's due to the fact that the team's temporary home, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, has more sideline and less end-zone seats. "There's definitely more security than ever before," Hagel said, "but the fans have not had that cost passed on to them."
While it doesn't appear as if fans should expect to pay up, that doesn't mean the practice won't emerge in the event that another terrorist attack requires more security and causes insurance premiums to surge even higher.
"It's possible that fans will have to start paying for their safety at some point," said Kurt Hunzeker, editor of Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index, which regularly monitors the cost of attending sporting events. "But if it makes them more comfortable, I'm not sure they'll mind a small surcharge."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org