Super Bowl Tickets Out of Reach for Fans


Friday, January 30th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


HOUSTON (AP) _ Bob Duckworth and his daughter waited to get autographs from Carolina Panthers players at the team's hotel this week, knowing that it was the closest they'd get to the Super Bowl.

They're not alone, though. Ticket prices have soared in the days leading up to Sunday's game between the Panthers and New England Patriots, giving only the most avid NFL fans with the deepest wallets a chance to get a seat at Reliant Stadium.

``Even the base price is out of my league,'' said Duckworth, a Houston-area high school teacher and father of four. ``I'll be watching it on television.''

The base price for one ticket is $500, but those are long gone. Now, fans wanting a last-minute ticket must look to brokers, ticket scalpers and Internet sites, where prices range from $1,900 to more than $6,000.

Of course, the buyer should beware. With every Super Bowl comes counterfeit tickets or people paying up front for bogus tickets that never arrive.

The Super Bowl is ``the grand daddy of them all in terms of scams,'' said Eric Baker, president of StubHub.com, an online ticket seller.

``Anyone can throw up a Web site, make claims of guarantees,'' Baker said. ``We've got a system where we're registering every seller, monitoring every transaction.''

Gary Adler, general counsel for the National Association of Ticket Brokers, said his organization screens businesses and provides a list to help consumers buy from reputable sellers.

But some fans think even ticket brokers aren't the best deal for bargain hunters.

While Duckworth realizes the demand for tickets dictates the high prices, he believes the cost makes it impossible for the average fan to go to the game.

``Professional football used to be a middle-class person's game,'' Duckworth said. ``It's not anymore. Deep down, there's something wrong with it. But it's America. You can do that.''

As Duckworth, 46, talked, he was approached by P.J., a self-described ``middleman'' for brokers, who pulled out a seating chart of Reliant Stadium and went over ticket prices.

``You want a ticket, you've got to pay the piper,'' said P.J., who did not wish to give his last name. ``It's the American way, supply and demand.''

P.J. said he had been doing brisk business since arriving in Houston, selling tickets in the price range of $2,200-$3,500.

Dennis Storemski, executive assistant chief with the Houston Police Department, said while there are no laws against ticket scalping in Texas, there is a city ordinance against selling any merchandise on public property without a permit.

``Should there be anyone out on the street trying to sell tickets, we'll do enforcement of all those laws,'' he said.

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said he doesn't see much difference between scalpers and ticket brokers.

``It's kind of a practice that cries out for some sort of government regulation to make it somewhat fairer to the regular citizen,'' said Wentworth, who in previous legislative sessions has unsuccessfully tried to get a state law passed banning scalping.

Adler said there's a big difference between scalpers and what his industry does.

``We will always be an easy target for people,'' he said. ``Saying you can't get into a Super Bowl because of ticket brokers simply is not true.''

Josh Oren of Houston will be among the 70,000 fans at the stadium on Sunday, thanks to a bit of luck and an initial investment of $200.

Oren, 30, is one of 50 fans from across the country who got to purchase tickets at face value for taking part in The Ticket Reserve. The online marketplace is similar to a stock exchange, where they bought shares of their favorite teams. Those who at the end of the playoffs had shares of either the Patriots or Panthers got to buy tickets at face value, plus whatever they paid to buy their shares.

``I'm thrilled I'm going,'' said Oren, who had shares for the Panthers and bought two tickets, each at a total cost of $700. ``There's no way I could bring myself to spending $3,000 on a ticket.''