NFL fans tackle ticket price hike
Seats are more expensive, but there are bargains on the secondary market.
Finding good deals on professional football tickets this season requires a well-executed offensive play.
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Of the 32 teams in the National Football League, 18 increased their individual ticket prices by as much as 7%. Those who miss out at the box office could see even higher prices: The average ticket on the secondary market is more expensive too, up 64% to $252, according to FanSnap, a ticket aggregator that shows all the available tickets on resale sites, including eBay and StubHub.
But the price hike doesn't mean fans have to pay more. The NFL has reported declining attendance figures since 2006. There were 16.6 million people in the stands last year -- 2.53% fewer than in 2008. This year, the league expects season ticket sales to be down another 1% to 2%, a good indication of another attendance drop.
More available tickets ultimately mean more variable prices, says Mike Janes, chief executive of FanSnap. The booming resale market includes both season ticketholders selling seats and brokers who snapped up single game tickets, each with different price points and selling motivations. "There's always that opportunity to find a bargain," he says. "Even in this economy, fans love their football."
Aim for the big venue. The bigger the stadium, the more room there is for deals, says a spokeswoman for StubHub. Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for example -- the third largest house in the NFL -- holds 110,000, including 80,000 seated.
That leads to one of the most robust ticket markets, with more than 46,000 tickets still available for a Dec. 12 division game against the Philadelphia Eagles, according to FanSnap. For many games, standing-room-only tickets start at $20 -- a 31% discount from face value. Seats, which start at $75 at the box office, are as cheap as $40, the spokeswoman says.
Assess team performance. "The season is just getting started, so expectations play a big role in prices," Janes says.
Fans who expect their team to do well should buy early. Those who have nagging worries about injuries or other factors may do well to wait.
Teams that are doing well or are expected to do well have the highest prices: Thanks to their Super Bowl win last season, the New Orleans Saints' ticket resale prices are up 264% this year, to an average $404. The New England Patriots, on the other hand, are one of the more undervalued teams this year, according to Janes. Their average price has dropped 21%, to $185, despite widespread predictions for a winning record.
Factor in pre-game events. Some teams offer tailgating, team autograph opportunities and other events that can make even expensive tickets worthwhile, says a spokesman for CouponSherpa.com, a deal-tracking site. For example, the Green Bay Packers offer free access to heated tents with food, TVs and freebies before every home game.
Wait until the last minute. Fans more concerned about prices than seat selection should wait until just hours before kickoff. Prices can drop precipitously on the day of a game as sellers grow desperate, the StubHub spokeswoman says.
Calculate fees. Resale sites add different service charges, shipping costs and other fees that can impact the final cost of your ticket. RazorGator and StubHub charge a 10% commission, for example, while TicketsNow charges 15%. Compare final prices when checking different sites. FanSnap.com also lists final selling prices.
Attend Sunday games. Save Monday night football for TV watching, Janes says. Sunday tickets tend to be cheaper, especially if the team plays in the early afternoon. Tickets to see the Baltimore Ravens play at home start at $99 for 1 p.m. Sunday games, but they jump to $138 for the team's Dec. 5 night game against Pittsburgh.
Plan a road trip. Depending on the matchup, away games can be significantly cheaper than those at home (see "Aim for the big venue" above). The savings may not make up the cost of a plane ticket, the StubHub spokeswoman says, but it could be worth crunching the vacation numbers if there's a game in a city you'd like to visit anyway. Indianapolis fans could pay as little as $295 for club-level seats to see the team play at Jacksonville on Oct. 3, versus $375 for comparable seats for the team's Oct. 10 home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
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