SALT LAKE CITY — A new populist seating policy has an exclusive group of self-described "elite" basketball fans seeing red.
The Jazz 100 Club is suing the Utah Jazz for $19 million because it says a new policy that allows all season-ticket holders to buy and sell their seats has devalued its memberships by as much as 90 percent.
The move that opened up once-exclusive perks to thousands of Jazz fans cost club members millions of dollars, says the club's elected president, Alan Melchior.
According to a lawsuit filed Friday in 3rd District Court, former Jazz owner Larry H. Miller created the club in 1987 as a "selective organization that entitled its members to exclusive rights and privileges," including equity in the club, ownership of "some of the best seats" in EnergySolutions Arena and a 20-percent discount on season tickets.
After Miller's death, however, the team's new management began to "violate its … obligations in pursuit of fleeting and relatively insignificant monetary gain," according to the lawsuit.
Melchior said that originally only club members could own seats at the basketball arena. Under new rules adopted in January, however, all season-ticket holders may now own seats, a privilege Melchior says they haven't paid for.
Seat positions that once sold for as much as $200,000 a pop have now gone for $20,000, a drop of 90 percent, Melchior said.
"This is a major windfall for season ticket holders because they have not paid for the benefit," he said. "This makes a huge difference. It negates the value of the seat positions."
The club's 50 to 60 members own most of the 220 courtside seats, Melchior said. That pricey perk is now available to about 11,000 season ticket holders.
According to the lawsuit, club members are "some of the most successful and influential individuals and companies in Utah, who have paid millions of dollars for their memberships."
Melchior contends those millions of dollars are now gone as the value of seats has dropped and club members can only sell their seats at a significant loss.
In a prepared statement, Jazz Communications Vice President Linda Luchetti said they take the matter seriously and the team's legal department is reviewing the lawsuit, but she declined to comment further on the club's complaints.