Super Bowl tickets being resold at record prices

Updated: January 27, 2008, 4:02 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Die-hard Giants and Patriots fan are paying record prices to scalpers for tickets to this year's Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., and the total dollar volume of resold seats could be the biggest ever, according to ticketing firms.

Asking prices for the Feb. 3 game range from $2,450 to $19,446 at StubHub, a unit of eBay Inc. and the biggest of the online resellers. Officials there say the average price so far is $4,300 for tickets that the National Football League originally priced at either $700 or $900.

"It appears our face value is underpriced based on demand and what people are willing to pay," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, who seems resigned to the fact that the league is mostly powerless to stop the profitable turnover of tickets.

Marcel Nadeau of Rehobeth, Mass., said he paid $29,385 to reseller RazorGator for a package that includes three hotel nights and breakfasts, transportation to and from the game, a gift package, and tickets for him and his two sons.

"I'm confident the Patriots will win," Nadeau said in explaining why he is willing to shell out the big bucks. But even if they don't, his next stop is already lined up: "On to Vegas we go."

As many states have repealed laws banning ticket scalping and buyers like Nadeau seem immune to sticker shock, corporate America is jumping on the bandwagon in a big way. One of StubHub's competitors, TicketsNow, is being acquired for $265 million by Ticketmaster, owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp, the New York-based Internet conglomerate controlled by media mogul Barry Diller.

Resellers bear little risk if tickets they offer don't get sold. Instead, they make their money by requiring both buyers and sellers to pay commissions of between 10 percent and 15 percent.

The matchup between the New York Giants and the undefeated New England Patriots is a clash of big-market teams from the chilly Northeast. The game-day forecast for the Phoenix area is for a high of 68 degrees. But even that doesn't matter because the teams will be playing indoors in University of Phoenix Stadium, the 63,400-seat home of the Arizona Cardinals that will have its seating expanded to about 75,000 for the Super Bowl.

"You gotta mortgage your home to get into the game," said Michael Hershfield, a former lawyer who recently started the ticketing Web site LiveStub.com. "There's this recipe that's been spiced up for a very exciting, very hot event. With all the changes in the industry, this combination has created this current wave of supply and demand."

RazorGator Chief Executive Jeff Lapin, who is predicting total sales will set a record, is amazed what buyers are willing to pay. Tickets on his Web site are listed between $2,700 and $7,200. "I'm telling my friends to buy now because it looks like it's going to be tight," he said.

Doug Anderson, a Giants fan for almost all of his 71 years, never attended a Super Bowl. But his team's win over Green Bay got the retired truck driver from Mansfield, N.J., thinking.

When he saw a StubHub ad in his local newspaper, he and his wife Barbara rearranged their vacation plans and bought tickets for $2,800 each. Come game day they'll be in Section 435, which is on a corner of the end zone on the upper tier.

Another enthusiastic Giants fan named Marc, who asked that his last name not be used because of how much he is spending, paid more than $40,000 for a package through RazorGator's Prime Sports. It includes four tickets on the 50-yard line, hotel stays and pre- and post-game parties to take his three sons, who are 9, 11 and 14.

Born and raised in Manhattan, Marc now lives in Denver and works as a mutual fund manager. Within minutes of the Giants' playoff win, he got online and started looking for the tickets.

"I see it as a once in a lifetime event, so the stars aligned and we're off," he said. "It's not something I'm going to do on a regular basis."

His wife and 16-year-old daughter, who is uninterested in football, are throwing a Super Bowl party at home while the boys go to Phoenix. They have, at least, agreed to wear their jerseys in support of the family team.

StubHub figures show the march higher of scalped tickets in recent years. Tickets it handled for last year's game between the Bears and the Colts averaged $4,004. That was sharply higher than the Steelers-Seahawks in 2006 at $3,009, the Eagles-Patriots in 2005 at $2,659, the Patriots-Panthers in 2004 at $2,290, and the Raiders-Buccaneers in 2003 at $2,767.

StubHub spokesman Sean Pate said prices tend to drop as the game draws closer, and a local law in Glendale could work to the advantage of procrastinators: Ticket scalpers will be allowed to ply their wares in the north preferred parking lot, about a two-minute walk from a stadium entrance, according to stadium marketing director Scott Norton. But Gary Adler, an attorney for the National Association of Ticket Brokers, said he did not recommend that fans try to buy tickets outside the stadium.

So where are all the tickets coming from?

The NFL league office controlled 25.2 percent of the tickets and distributed 17.5 percent shares each to the Giants and Patriots for their own use and sale to their season ticket holders. The Arizona Cardinals got 5 percent and each of the other 29 NFL teams got 1.2 percent allocations.

NFL spokesman McCarthy said coaches, players and team officials are reminded every year that they can be fined if the league finds out that they scalped Super Bowl tickets they received or bought at face value. Minnesota Vikings head Mike Tice was fined $100,000 in 2005 for doing so and two of his assistants were fined $10,000 each.

But given this year's demand for tickets at almost any cost, the temptation to cash in is there, he acknowledges: "This year we do have a perfect storm -- the pursuit of perfection of the Patriots, the wonderful story of the New York Giants, the desirable location in Arizona and rabid fans around the world -- all working together."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press