Now that the NFL lockout is over, fans can go ahead and rush the box office for tickets. But those who can wait may score the best deals.
Since the owners and the players ended their stalemate on Monday, NFL ticket prices have soared on resale sites -- up 23% compared with the same period last year, according to comparison site SeatGeek.com. And while NFL tickets often sell for more than face value, the premiums are particularly high right now, experts say: A ticket to see the Dallas Cowboys play the New England Patriots on Oct. 16 currently costs $332 on the resale market, roughly double the face value. Box office ticket prices are flat year-over-year, according to the NFL, but popular teams like the Chicago Bears sell out fast. "It's a uniquely bad time to buy tickets right now," says Jack Groetzinger, the co-founder of comparison site SeatGeek.com. "We've seen an explosion of fan interest over the last two days."
The end of the lockout makes an already challenging time -- the beginning of the season -- even tougher for ticket-seekers. The box office is the safest and best bet, but it's not uncommon for over 90% of a team's tickets to go to season ticket holders, says NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. And those tickets go fast. Last year, 90% of games sold out; this season, a few teams, including the 2009 Super Bowl champions the New Orleans Saints, have already sold out for the entire season. Given that almost half of the NFL's 32 teams typically sell out their home games, many fans are forced to scour the secondary ticket market to get the best value for money.
But the discounts get better as the season wears on, especially if your team underperforms -- the curse of being a frugal football fan. And there are signs attendance is gradually, if slowly, declining, offering more opportunities to scoop up tickets. Attendance is down 4% from a record high in 2007, and the NFL "blacked out" TV broadcasts of more games last year than it did the year before, in an effort to lure fans to the stadium. In theory, that should lead to marginally more resale and box office ticket availability.
To get the best deals, avoid the first couple of games when every team is still a contender, advises Barry Kahn, chief executive of Qcue, a Texas-based ticketing technology company. Then, set yourself up with an alert to let you know when tickets you want hit the price level you're willing to pay. Aggregator sites FanSnap.com and SeatGeek.com send out deal alerts by email in the same way travel websites do. And, as of this season, SeatGeek.com will offer Deal Score, a website that ranks a ticket's value on a scale of 0-100 based on its price and location in the stadium. Prime Sport will also start sending out similar deal alerts this fall. If you're heart isn't set on the Cowboys, resale tickets to see the Baltimore Ravens at the Cleveland Browns on December 4 are just $49; face value tickets start at about $35. "But once talk about the lockout fades, prices will likely settle," says Joellen Ferrer, spokeswoman for ticket resale site StubHub.com.