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Fans are spending just as much on party passes as Super Bowl tickets

Fans line up in front of a big screen to have their photo taken with the Vince Lombardi Trophy on di
Fans line up in front of a big screen to have their photo taken with the Vince Lombardi Trophy on display at the NFL Experience ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl 53 between the Rams and New England Patriots.
(David Goldman / Associated Press)

The cheapest upper level end zone ticket to watch the Los Angeles Rams play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII were selling for around $2,500 on the secondary market before the game. Some fans, however, will be spending that much, if not more, going to parties before the game.

As big as the Super Bowl is, the parties and events that surround the game have grown to become just as appealing (and expensive) for many, who plan their trip based on what parties they can get into.

The ultra-exclusive Playboy and Maxim Super Bowl parties held 15 years ago have been replaced by ticketed events, open to a public willing to pay top-dollar to party within a 10-yard slant route of their favorite athletes and celebrities.

“People aren’t coming in just for the game on Sunday,” said Scott Jablonski, the general manager of NFL, NBA and NHL for StubHub. “Some people who come here aren’t even going to the game on Sunday. We have Rams fans and Patriots fans coming but we also have people coming in just for the experience, irrespective of the teams. They want to go to those hot parties and those events before the game. People usually come 3-4 days before the game and they don’t want to just sit in their hotel room. We’ve seen a spike in fan interest in events surrounding the Super Bowl and that’s why we want to provide more than just a ticket to the game.”

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Many fans coming in for the Super Bowl start trickling in on Thursday, when most of the big parties start taking place. While the NFL’s choice of Maroon 5 to headline the Super Bowl halftime show was widely panned by many who wanted a more Atlanta feel for the show, On Location Experiences, which the league is a part owner of, threw a Music Fest this week with performances by many of the artists fans were originally hoping to see on Sunday.

The Music Fest opened on Thursday with performances by Atlanta’s Ludacris, Migos, Lil Yachty, Lil Baby, Lil Jon, Ciara, Metro Boomin and 21 Savage. Friday’s show will be headlined by Aerosmith and Post Malone and the event concludes on Saturday with Bruno Mars and Cardi B. Ticket prices for the shows at State Farm Arena, the home of the Atlanta Hawks, increased each day with lower level tickets going for $75 on Thursday, $150 on Friday and $400 on Saturday.

“Everybody wants access and that’s what drives premier sports and entertainment events,” said John Collins, chief executive officer of On Location Experiences and formerly the chief operating officer of the NHL. “What we’ve tried to do with the Super Bowl is bring a sense of order. Some of those parties years ago may have seemed exclusive but they were only exclusive because no one really knew how to gain access. What we’ve tried to do as the official league partner is to say, work with us and the ropes will come down and the doors will open and you’ll have access to the best that’s going on this weekend.”

Exclusive guest lists were replaced by general admission tickets as companies and promoters looked to capitalize on the expendable income of fans who have already made the financial commitment to fly out to the Super Bowl site with most paying a premium price for game tickets and hotel accommodations. On Friday night, Shaquille O’Neal will hold his “Shaq’s Fun House” party next to SunTrust Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves, with featured guests including Migos, Diplo, Tiesto, Lil Jon, T-Pain and DJ Irie. For $2,100 you could have had a standing ticket in the VIP table area and for $550 more you could have stood in line for a meet and greet with O’Neal.

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Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne will highlight Sports Illustrated’s party on Saturday night at the College Football Hall of Fame. Fans trying to mingle with celebrities could have bought a single ticket in the exclusive VIP area for $2,500 or a VIP table for 10 for $25,000. A VIP ticket to Maxim’s pregame party on Sunday afternoon, hosted by Deion Sanders and Snoop Dogg, was selling for $1,250 with a VIP booth for 10 going for $7,500. A VIP ticket, including a meet and greet, to a “Leather & Laces” party hosted by Flo Rida on Friday was selling for $1,500 while a single VIP ticket in a shared booth at Maxim’s “Big Game Experience Party” on Saturday, hosted by Jaime Foxx, Future, Diplo and DJ Ruckus, was selling for $3,500.

“The Super Bowl is a convention of Americana,” said agent Leigh Steinberg, who threw the first big Super Bowl parties beginning in 1985 and held his 32nd Super Bowl party at Atlanta’s Believe Music Hall on Saturday afternoon. “People are here from other sports and other forms of entertainment as well as corporate CEOs and executives. If you’re looking to attract a powerful audience looking to pay a premium price for what you can offer this is an ideal place. I didn’t sell tickets to my party but I heard they used to go for $3,000. There’s no other event that can attract people to spend money the way the Super Bowl can.”


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