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Super Bowl Ticket Market in No Danger of Crashing

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 that prices for scalped tickets to this year’s game here Jan. 31 will fall between $700 for bottom-row seats in the end zone to as much as $3,500 for seats on the 50-yard line.

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

Scalping--selling tickets for more than face value--is legal in California, as long as it’s not done at the event location.

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As a result, scalping is a booming industry.

The Yellow Pages in both San Diego and Los Angeles contain numerous listings for ticket brokers, otherwise known as scalpers. Some have been in business as long as a decade but say that this year’s Super Bowl may yield 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.”

San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, site of the Super Bowl, is the smallest stadium ever awarded the game. Its usual capacity is 60,000 for football, although for the Super Bowl, it is being expanded to 73,500.

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Kevin Osment, manager of Buck’s Ticket Service, said that last year’s game at the Rose Bowl, with its 100,000-plus seats, brought a price range of $400 to $2,000 a ticket.

Said Karen Jacobson, vice president of Jacobson 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.”

She said that 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 across the country. She buys from ticket-holders willing to sell, then sells those tickets at heavily inflated prices.

Jacobson said that her range falls between $750 for end-zone seats to $2,000 for 50-yard line seats. She said that she would refuse to sell tickets for 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.”

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Osment listed his range between $700 and $900 for end-zone seats to $3,500 for plaza-level seats on the 50, “the best in the house.” Fifty-yard-line seats in the stadium’s upper level will go for $1,500 to $2,000, he said.

Phil Falk, a salesman with Front Row Center Tickets in Los Angeles, called such high-end prices “inflationary” and “exaggerated,” saying his agency would offer 50-yard-line seats for less.

He said that Front Row Center, which has an outlet in Orange County and plans to open one in San Diego just for the Super Bowl, will sell 50-yard-line seats for no more than $1,750.

Falk also said that Front Row Center requires a deposit of $200 a ticket.

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

Osment said that Buck’s requires a $200 deposit, which guarantees a ticket, as well as the price worked out with Buck’s at the time the deposit is paid.

Representatives of each agency contacted said that the price would not vary after the transaction was made.

The range could vary, though, depending on the teams involved. Osment predicted, based on preliminary phone calls, that a San Francisco 49er-Denver Bronco game would be “scalpers’ heaven.” He said a Chicago Bear-Bronco game would also be heavenly.

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Jacobson agreed, saying that cities whose teams had never been to the game would also incite a seller’s market. Teams from such cities include the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns.

She predicted that a game between, say, the Washington Redskins and Browns would bring the least demand, largely 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 all of which come from various places.

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

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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 that a reader of, say, the Boston Globe in Quincy, Mass., might see Buck’s ad and decide to call. If he had access to 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.”

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