The Emerald Aisles: Ticket Brokers Anticipate Field Day : SAN DIEGO SUPER BOWL XXII HOSTS

Times Staff Writer

So you want to go to the Super Bowl, but don’t have tickets? Good luck. You may be in for a shock.

Ticket brokers in San Diego and Los Angeles predict prices for scalped tickets for the 1988 game, scheduled for Jan. 31 in San Diego, will fall between $700 for bottom-row, end-zone seats to as much as $3,500 for what they call “primo” seats on the 50-yard line.

The teams that will play in the Super Bowl haven’t yet begun the playoffs, and the Super Bowl XXII tickets--face value $100 each--won’t be issued for weeks. But the scalpers are already hard at work.

Scalping--selling tickets for more than face value--is legal in California as long as it’s done anywhere but on the premises of where the event in question is being staged.


As a result, scalping is a booming industry.

The Yellow Pages in both San Diego and Los Angeles list numerous ticket brokers, otherwise known as scalpers. Some have been in business as long as a decade but say this year’s Super Bowl may bring their biggest profits ever.

“When people hear the prices, they’re shocked,” said Lynne, a manager of Trip Tickets in San Diego who declined to give her last name. " . . . And we’ll get the high prices because, let’s face it, the people are willing to pay.”

The reason for the high prices, both “list” and “scalp,” is the same: San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, home to its first Super Bowl, is the smallest yet to stage the game. Its usual capacity is 60,000 for football. For the Super Bowl, it’s being expanded to 73,500, still far below the 100,000-plus of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, site of last year’s Super Bowl and a few others.


Kevin Osment, manager of Buck’s Ticket Service, said last year’s game brought $400 to $2,000 a ticket.

Lynne, a “rock’n’roll specialist,” said Bruce Springsteen’s Los Angeles Coliseum concerts in 1985 netted Trip Tickets a top price of $450 a seat. The Super Bowl, she said, “is a different animal.”

Said Karen Jacobson, vice president of Jax Ticket Agency in San Diego: “It is the major sporting event in America. It’s like the American coronation. Buying and selling the tickets is like the stock market. It’s based strictly on supply and demand, but there’s one thing we’re sure of:

“This market will never crash.”


Jacobson said the price (demand) keeps escalating while the number of tickets (supply) is dwindling. She blames it on the obvious: the smaller venue, plus what she terms the “exponential” factor of the game’s growing in popularity.

She said tickets for this year’s game won’t be released by the National Football League until two weeks before kickoff. But already she has brokers lining up tickets throughout the country in a method that elevates networking to an art form. She buys from ticket holders willing to sell, then sells those tickets at heavily inflated scalpers’ prices.

Jacobson said her range falls between $750 for end-zone seats to $2,000 for 50-yard-line seats. She claimed she would refuse to sell tickets in the newly constructed field-level bench seats, calling them “the worst seats ever for a football game. They’re absolutely pitiful--a real rip-off.”

Osment listed his range as $700 to $900 for end-zone seats to $3,500 for plaza-level, 50-yard-line seats--in his words, “the best in the house.” He said seats on the 50-yard line in the upper level would go for less--for the paltry sum of $1,500 to $2,000.


Phil Falk, a salesman with Front Row Center Tickets in Los Angeles, called such high-end prices “inflationary” and “exaggerated,” saying his agency will offer 50-yard-line seats for less. He said Front Row Center--which has an outlet in Orange County and plans to open one in San Diego just for the Super Bowl--would sell 50-yard-line seats for no more than $1,750. Falk said Front Row Center re quires a deposit of $200 per ticket.

Jacobson said her agency requires “full payment in advance,” which guarantees the buyer a ticket “exactly where he wants it.”

Osment said Buck’s requires a $200 deposit, which guarantees a ticket, as well as the price worked out with Buck’s when the deposit is paid. (Representatives of each agency contacted said the price won’t vary after the transaction is made.) Buyers straggling in a day before the game can expect to pay prices that, in Osment’s words, “may fly out the darn roof.”

In other words, the range could climb higher, he said, depending on the teams involved. Osment predicted, based on preliminary phone calls, that a San Francisco 49ers-Denver Broncos match-up would be “scalpers’ heaven.” He said a Chicago Bears-Broncos match-up would also be heavenly.


Jax Ticket’s Jacobson agreed, saying that cities whose teams had never been to the game would also incite a seller’s market. Such cities--and teams--include the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns. She predicted that a match-up between, say, the Washington Redskins and Browns would bring the least demand because fans in those cities would have farther to travel.

Brokers such as Jacobson employ various methods for gathering tickets, none of which are sold to them at list price and none of which come from one place.

Buck’s Ticket Service has taken out classified ads in every newspaper in the 28 cities that boast National Football League franchises. Osment said the most response is coming from Kansas City, Detroit and Cincinnati.

Super Bowl tickets are divided among the various teams, who parcel them out to players and management personnel as well as a small percentage of season ticket holders and media representatives. Osment said a reader of, say, the Boston Globe might see Buck’s ad and decide to call. If he held tickets, he would then call the agency and begin what Osment called the “delicate, bit-by-bit process of negotiation.”


“Let’s say we buy from him at $400 to $500 or even $1,500 for top of the line,” Osment said. “Of course, our price has to be higher than that. We know we can make a profit because, let’s face it, people will pay it for the Super Bowl.

“It’s our one guaranteed money bonanza all year.”