Ticket roulette: Where the deals are
Sports fans vie for NCAA, Masters tickets. How to get cheap seats.
The March Madness ticket market has had a number of surprises this year -- among them, Tiger Woods.
Woods announced last week that he would play at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., in April, his first competition since news of his sex scandal broke last year. Searches for Masters badges on the secondary ticket market quadrupled within hours, heating up a ticket market already busy with NCAA Championship basketball tournament demand. “Hey, it is March Madness,” says Mike Janes, chief executive of ticket-search site FanSnap.com. “This is the month of Cinderellas and upsets.”
There’s good reason for the ticket market frenzy. Although ticket prices for both big tournaments have rebounded slightly from recessionary lows, there are still plenty of deals to be had. Even factoring in the 30% “Tiger effect” increase, seven-day Masters badges are going for roughly $3,000, Janes says. In previous years, they sold for more than $5,000. NCAA Final Four tickets are going for an average $475; compared with $1,000 in 2008.
If either event is on your must-see list this year, try these tips to get access on a budget:
Get an eyeful. Are you more interested in gawking at Tiger than watching golf? Go for a practice day if price is your major consideration, says Russell D’Souza, a co-founder of ticket-forecasting site SeatGeek.com. If you’re set on seeing Woods during a competition day, go with Thursday or Friday. The field of golfers narrows as the tournament progresses. "Tiger Woods may not be playing Saturday or Sunday,” he says. Prices for Monday’s practice round start at roughly $200; Thursday’s competition, $400.
Compare across sites. Each Masters badge gets you the same grounds access, Janes says. Asking prices for a four-day badge run as high as $21,355, although most fall into the $2,400 to $3,200 range. You could save more than $1,000 by shopping around. Access to one of the corporate hospitality suites on site offering food and a place to relax can be purchased as part of a badge package or separately, so factor that into your price if you’re interested in that service.
Wait to buy. The jump in prices after Woods’ announcement was little more than a market reflex, says Brendan Ross, chief executive of RazorGator.com, a ticket reseller. “[The buyers] are people who had put off buying until they were sure he was in,” Ross says. Prices are likely to fluctuate somewhat as the tournament approaches, with last-minute buyers able to snag better deals.
Keep your cool. Crowds are likely to be under tight rein during Woods’ comeback appearance, D’Souza says. “The Masters is really going to crack down on heckling,” he predicts. Tournament organizers have never been keen on the reselling of badges, and poorly behaved guests may find themselves ousted.
Consider location. Prices tend to be highest for games where much of the fan base lives within easy driving distance, says Joellen Ferrer, a spokeswoman for ticket marketplace StubHub.com. Prices and demand are currently highest for the Sweet 16 games in Syracuse, N.Y., where regional team Cornell University is playing on March 25. If you’re willing to travel to see your favorite team, you have a better shot at getting great seats on the cheap.
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Time your purchase. Buy last minute for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds. The market is particularly robust now that rounds one and two are complete. “Fans will be looking to sell their tickets if their team [didn't] make it,” Ferrer says.
Buying Final Four and Championship round tickets now could be a good investment -- even if you’re not sure your team will get there, Janes says. Prices tend to shoot up once the final matchup has been confirmed, especially if it’s a good one or the team has a large fan base nearby.
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Go for the cheap seats. Most seats offer a great view, Ross says. Stadium seating in the newer venues is nearly vertical and the court is large, offering even those in the nosebleed section a good eye on the action. Some locations go a step further. “They’ve piped sound throughout the arena,” he says, so everyone can hear the sounds of players moving across the court and the ball bouncing off the rim of the hoop. The cheapest seats in Elite 8 games start at $48; Final Four tickets, at $210.
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