Super Bowl tickets more expensive than ever

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- A Cambria County native now retired in San Antonio, George Clark was thrilled to hear his son, Kevin, had won the season-ticket-holder lottery for Steelers Super Bowl tickets.

And he never dreamed of selling them.

"There's no amount of money worth more than going to that game," said Mr. Clark, as he waited for his grandson to get former Steeler Jerome Bettis' autograph at a bar near the stadium. "I wouldn't give up that ticket for nothing."

Although the Clarks won't put a price on their tickets, the Internet has. And it's reaching unprecedented heights.

The market for seats in even the farthest reaches of the gargantuan Cowboys Stadium is more than $2,000 each.

By Thursday, Super Bowl XLV already had become the biggest-selling event in the history of online ticket marketplace StubHub. Sales were up 40 percent over last year's Super Bowl, according to spokeswoman Joellen Ferrer. But even though Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expects to pack more than 110,000 fans into the stadium -- while about 74,000 attended last year's game in South Florida -- the volume of tickets sold has been about the same, Ms. Ferrer said.

They're just much more expensive.

On StubHub, the average sale price is about $3,600 per ticket, while the past three Super Bowls hovered around $2,500, Ms. Ferrer said.

The Ticketmaster-run NFL Ticket Exchange, the league's official resale site, has seen prices rise from an average of $3,208 last year to $4,119 for Sunday's game, according to a news release. The cheapest available seat on the site, as of Thursday afternoon, was offered at more than $2,900.

Ticket Network, another online ticket exchange, has seen an even bigger price increase, from $2,500 last year to an average of $4,000 per seat this year.

So-called nosebleed seats in the upper regions of the stadium are going for an average of $2,500 on StubHub and $2,200 on Ticket Network.

And that's a pittance compared to the prices for the catered luxury suites. On StubHub, a fan in California picked up a pair of club seats at the 50-yard line for $15,000 each. The largest single purchase so far on StubHub has been $73,000 for 15 suite seats, but those were in a corner, far from the prime real estate.

The simplest explanations for the price spike would be the broad, passionate fan bases of the Green Bay Packers and the Steelers -- whose idolatry extends from the teams to dairy-themed headwear and yellow dishrags -- and the location of the game in football-mad Texas. But the spectacle of the gleaming new stadium also could be a draw.

"Dallas Cowboys Stadium is new, it's known to be one of the best stadiums in the country, and I think people would pay a premium to watch a game there," said Ticket Network spokeswoman Jessica Cushing.

They are even paying a premium just to be there. The Cowboys offered season-ticket holders a chance to attend the game but watch on large televisions in outdoor pens on the stadium complex. The face value for those tickets is $200 -- but they're going for $330 on average on StubHub.

"At the end of the day, if you've got fans coming into town, whether they're coming from Pittsburgh or whatever, if you can't find a ticket at the price you like, there is an alternate," Ms. Ferrer said. "So we're definitely seeing there is still some activity for those tickets. Crazy, I know. Given the weather and everything, it's insane."

For its biggest-ever game, StubHub will erect a ticket redemption center Saturday and Sunday at the convention center in Arlington that has in years past featured a karaoke booth and face painting, as well as food and drink. Instead of mailing the absurdly valuable tickets, StubHub has its customers collect them in person, and the setup also will have kiosks where fans can surf the site and try to pick up last-minute tickets.

But the skyrocketing resale market is scaring off many fans.

"We gave it a shot to find some tickets, but no chance," said Chris Hoffman, of Arlington, who was hanging around the lobby of the Steelers team hotel in Fort Worth.

"They want $3,000 for the nosebleeds. So, we just came here to kind of take in the atmosphere, the fun, maybe see some of the players."

Nearby, Scott Sullivan of St. Petersburg, Fla., said he was counting on "someone I know" to come through with a face-value $900 single seat, and even then he is hoping for a discount. "I just sent my wife to China to visit family, so I can't even afford the face value. I really hope I'm in there, but I can't say for sure."

There's still time for them and others. Ms. Ferrer said prices fluctuate the most in the two days before the game, and factors like the weather -- there was a freak ice storm early this week, but it is supposed to warm up by game day -- could drive prices down.

"For the everyday fan that's just looking for a ticket, keep checking the site and you will see prices are constantly changing," she said. "Sellers are going to have to change prices to meet demand, and there will be that push and pull."


Daniel Malloy: dmalloy@post-gazette.com or 1-202-445-9980. Staff writer Dejan Kovacevic contributed from Fort Worth, Texas.


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