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Fans forced to tackle big markup

Patriots' official tour operator quadruples entry price of game

The New England Patriots are funneling a portion of their Super Bowl ticket allotment to a tour operator that is effectively charging four times face value for tickets included in trip packages to Jacksonville, Fla.

PrimeSport International, identified on the Patriots website as the official Super Bowl travel partner of the team, has been charging $1,099 for same-day air packages to the game for people who already have their ticket. The identical package, with an upper-level end zone ticket included, has been priced at $3,299. In effect, a ticket with a face value of $500 was marked up to $2,200.

The Patriots' arrangement with PrimeSport is not unusual in professional sports and is condoned by the National Football League. But Patriots season ticket holders grumble that scarce Super Bowl tickets that could be going to them at face value are instead going to a tour operator marking the price up substantially.

Steve George of Abington, a longtime season ticket holder who failed to snare Super Bowl tickets this year, reacted with dismay when told of the Patriots' dealings with PrimeSport.

''They're funneling the tickets away from the people who pay the freight all year long," he said.

The Patriots received approximately 11,550 tickets to Sunday's Super Bowl, according to an NFL spokesman. The team has refused to say how those tickets were distributed, but season ticket holders have speculated that only about 1,000 to 2,000 were sold to them through a lottery.

The price markups by Prime-Sport also appear to conflict with the team's strict policy against the resale of tickets above face value, a policy that has cost a number of season ticket holders their tickets in the past. Massachusetts' anti-scalping law also prohibits the sale of tickets more than $2 above face value, plus certain expenses.

Stacey James, the Patriots spokesman, said the arrangement with PrimeSport does not violate the team's policy because Prime-Sport is selling its tickets as part of a package and not individually.

''I don't think you can buy tickets above face value on that website," James said of the PrimeSport website.

Kell Kelly, a spokeswoman for PrimeSport, said the Beverly Hills, Calif., tour operator pays an annual fee to the Patriots for the right to be the team's official travel partner. As part of that deal, she said, the company receives a ''limited number" of tickets that it sells as part of its travel packages. Colpitts World Travel, a Dedham travel agency, represents PrimeSport locally.

Like James, Kelly said there is a price markup on PrimeSport's entire travel package, not on the individual tickets included in the package. Asked whether the Patriots were effectively scalping tickets through PrimeSport, Kelly said: ''They're not scalping them. They're allocating them to a marketing partner who has paid them money."

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