Lunch With Woody
I was fortunate enough to be invited to a private lunch with Jets owner Woody Johnson at Wayne Chrebet’s restaurant on Saturday before the Green and White Practice at Hofstra Stadium. The lunch was attended by 10 or so select media members who cover the team. It was the first time I’ve been involved in an open on-the-record forum with the owner and from what I’ve been told, this is something that the he rarely does.
The purpose of the lunch was specific. The team is on the verge of leaving Hofstra permanently for their new facility in Florham Park, NJ and Woody wants to get the word out to the fans that the Jets will not fully abandon their NY/LI fanbase by having the annual Green and White Scrimmage every summer at Hofstra. For those who have supported the team during their many years here, this small bone is of little solace. Granted, it’s great news that the team is getting a new state-of-the-art facility but it would have been nice if it was built in NY to keep some ties to the state.
One reporter asked RWJ III if he thinks the team should change their name to the NJ Jets, since they technically will have no ties to NY anymore. Woody replied that the team has a huge fanbase in both NY and NJ and would always be the NY Jets despite their new residence.
Let me say first off, that RWJ III is a nice guy. The few interactions and brief conversations I’ve had with him over the years have been very cordial and despite his wealth he doesn’t come off as aloof or pretentious. I believe he’s a true Jets fan and bought the team with genuine intentions of getting it back to NY and establishing it’s own identity.
That being said, the problem I have is that he gave up too quickly after the West Side Stadium failed and was bullied by the Giants and the state of NJ to accept an inferior deal that’s sole purpose is to fleece the fan.
Although he didn’t specify the dollar amounts, for the first time, Johnson acknowledged (to no one’s surprise) that PSL’s are coming and at this point, it’s believed that they they will be set up in the same stucture as the Giants, who announced their pricing a few weeks back.
The owner mentioned that the fans may not “really understand PSL’s” and perhaps the team hasn’t done a good enough job “explaining their value”. Unless the Jets have come up with a different, new kind of personal seat license that has never been seen before, I have issue with the owner trying to pawn a PSL as a commodity when everyone knows it’s not.
The only thing he did offer that could be considered somewhat of a value is that the PSL would give the owner the right to buy their seats for other events at the stadium (concerts, tractor pulls, etc.). However, how is this possible if your seat is PSL’ed by a Giants fan as well? Unless every event is done in pairs, someone is getting screwed. How do they choose which PSL owner gets which event? He couldn’t explain. Also, if the stadium hosts maybe 3 or 4 concerts per year, that’s a lot. Certainly, not a huge enough perk that would make anyone feel better about paying a fat PSL.
Be honest Woody, the only value of the PSL is to you since the proceeds will enable you to pay down a large percentage of the debt you’ve incurred to build the stadium almost instantly.
Another problem is that past owners who have charged PSL’s say it’s a way to keep ticket prices down. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case here as the Giants plan gets them paid on both sides. Not only do you have to pay the PSL, but ticket prices are going up too (some quite significantly). Again, the Jets won’t announce their structure until the end of the month, but it’s believed that it will be in line with their co-tenant, Big Blue .
During the Q&A I brought up a real scenario to Mr. Johnson:
I have a good friend of average means who has four seats in Section 112 that his family has owned since the early days of Shea. He’s a DIE HARD JETS FAN and bought these seats every year for 40+ years…through good times and bad. Based on the PSL numbers the Giants have announced, he’s looking at $80,000 in PSL’s just to keep the right to buy his seats. Then, on top of the PSL, his individual ticket price goes from $120 per game to $700.!! That means, his yearly ticket invoice goes from $4800. to a whopping $28,000!!!
Needless to say, my friend will be forced to give up his seats just based on the PSL alone. The worst part is that the main reason my friend has kept the seats for so long is to experience gameday with his kids who are just becoming old enough to appreciate it.
When I asked Woody what he would say a fan like my friend, he looked a little flustered and just said “That’s unfortunate…we’re not going to be able to make everyone happy and that’s something I’m disappointed about”. Not nearly disappointed as my friend though, Woody.
The owner mentioned that “Finally the Jets will have their own home, something they have never had”. First off, I’m not sure if I agree with the statement since the team basically is doing the same thing they have for the last 30 years. Sure, the stadium will no longer be called Giants Stadium and it will have neutral colored seats and green accent lighting…however, technically they could sell the naming rights of the current stadium, change the seat colors and it would be the same thing for around $1.5 billion less.
Although Woody didn’t give any details regarding the surveys they sent to the Fans recently, he states “We understand the feelings of the fans and will try to incorporate many of those ideas into the way we package PSL’s” I would bet my bottom dollar the majority of the fans would choose to keep the current stadium rather than cough up a PSL and a spike in their ticket prices.
Johnson announced that the official move date from Hempstead to Florham Park will be on September 2nd, five days before the Jets’ opening game in Miami. Most of the Jets staff is making the move with the team and some already have moved residences to NJ.
It’s obvious that RWJ III believes his legacy will be as the owner who finally got the Jets their own home but for me (and thousands of other Jets fans), he’ll always be the man who facilitated the complete abandonment of my Jets from New York. Although I’ll always be a Jets fan, I’ll never be nearly as passionate due to this.
Tags: Chrebets, Florham Park, Giants Stadium, Hofstra, Jets, Long Island, Meadowlands, New York, Personal Seat License, PSL's, Robert Wood Johnson III, Sean Deegan, Stadium, Training Camp, Weeb Ewbank Hall, West Side Stadium, Woody Johnson