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Two Super Bowl tickets, $77,000

Fans send prices soaring in high-profile matchup

Email|Print| Text size + By Keith O'Brien
Globe Staff / January 30, 2008

A single club seat on StubHub is listed at $19,446. Two tickets on eBay are going for $77,000. And if you want a luxury suite of your own this Sunday at Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., you've got that option - for $224,825.

"Some people do the math and find a way to rationalize that," said Mark Hodes, the senior vice president of TicketsNow, the online site where the 23-person luxury suite was up for sale yesterday. "They're certainly good seats."

Super Bowl ticket prices have often reached insane heights in recent years. But officials at online ticket websites say that demand for this year's game between the Patriots and the New York Giants exceeds anything they have seen before and is pricing out even the most dedicated fan.

The problem, on the one hand, is history. With the Pats trying to go 19-0, many New England fans have been planning this trip for months and even booking travel plans long before the Pats clinched the AFC title. And then there are Giants fans, who haven't been to the Super Bowl in seven years and, being New Yorkers, are used to throwing around big money to see a game.

"Had we seen Seattle versus San Diego, for instance, or Seattle versus Jacksonville, you'd have seen a much different pricing dynamic," said Sean Pate, a spokesman for StubHub, the largest online ticket reseller where Super Bowl tickets were going for $4,190 on average yesterday. "But when you have two marquee teams, from large cities, with national followings, you're going to see something like this."

In a typical year, the price of Super Bowl tickets will fall as it gets closer to game time, say ticket brokers. And both Hodes and Pate predicted that it will happen again this year. Hodes said prices may hit their lowest level today, as brokers get their hands on the tickets they bought from fans looking to unload their seats and the full supply of Super Bowl tickets hits the open market.

But he cautioned Patriots fans against waiting till the last minute to make their purchase, in the belief that prices will continue to fall. With countless Patriots fans bound for Arizona without tickets, Hodes expects there will be a crush of fans walking the wide, dusty streets out West asking ticket brokers and fans a simple but urgent question: "Got tickets?"

"I think it's going to reach an all-time high," agreed Patriots spokesman Stacey James. "There's no shortage of people who'd do anything to see this game."

The NFL distributed roughly 70,000 tickets to Sunday's game under the following equation: 17.5 percent to the Patriots; 17.5 percent to the Giants, 5 percent to the host team, the Arizona Cardinals; 34.8 percent to the other 29 teams; and 25.2 to media, NFL sponsors, and fans, through a lottery. Inevitably, some of these tickets end up online or on the street, being sold by season ticket holders who paid for them or corporate sponsors who got them for free.

"Once they leave the league office, distributed to teams and distributed to sponsors, we do know some of these tickets are resold or exchanged," said Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman. "Perhaps our face value is woefully underpriced."

Maybe so. But not compared to how it used to be. Face value this year is $700 or $900, compared with the $75 price that fans paid to go to New England's first Super Bowl against the Chicago Bears in 1986. And even when they were scalped, those tickets did not come close to fetching five-figure prices. John Travers of Plymouth, a Pats season ticket holder, said the going rate on the street for tickets in 1986 was about $500 each.

Now, said Travers, a rabid Patriots fan known among tailgaters as the Mayor of Foxboro Terminal, $500 would cover only a fraction of what it would cost him to sit in the stadium this Sunday.

"The prices are just exorbitant," he said. "You're looking at a minimum of $3,000 a ticket - that's crazy. Then you've got to pay for a flight, scramble for a hotel room, or sleep on a park bench. It's just out of my league."

For that reason, Travers is staying put in Massachusetts.

But others are taking a different approach. Some, like Lou DeSantis of Northborough, got lucky. DeSantis said he and his wife bought tickets this week for $2,200 each, a relative bargain. Still, others are headed West, ticketless but hopeful.

"I think I'm going to roll the dice out in Arizona," said John Meskell, a Patriots season ticket holder from Boston who attended the last two Patriots Super Bowls.

By contrast, those tickets were cheap. In 2004, Meskell said, he paid $400 to watch the Pats beat the Carolina Panthers, and in 2005 he shelled out a little more than $1,000 to watch them nip the Philadelphia Eagles.

This year, he is hopeful he will get into the game again. But if he doesn't, Meskell will just be 2,700 miles from home and doing what most of us will be doing: watching the game on television.

Keith O'Brien can be reached at kobrien@globe.com.

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