Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Getting Tickets for the ACC Tournament

As everyone knows, the only way to see ACC Tournament games is to give several thousand dollars a year to your favorite school's athletic department, then they will give you the chance to buy tournament tickets. Right?

Well, not exactly. I've been to the ACC Tournament for the last 15 years. I've almost never had a ticket ahead of time. In rare cases I've run across a friend of a friend who was selling a couple of books before the tournament and I'd grab them. But, in many cases, that was a bad move financially, because those books include early round games that you could probably get in for $10 a game.

ACC Tournament Ticket Scene before expansion
In most years, the best way to see the ACC Tournament is to go early, work hard, and buy smart. Get to the parking lot early. When there were play-in games, you could expect to get in to the play-in game for $0 - $10. There were just tickets everywhere. The main point of showing up on Thursday was to try to buy for Friday or really good deals on entire books. For Friday games, get to the parking lot at 10:30 and just start looking for anything face value or below. As the weekend progresses, the market will move up and down depending on who is losing, who is winning, but if you work at it hard enough, you could almost always count on getting in for face value.

The rare exception would be a Duke/UNC final when both teams are good. You might go twice face value to get in.

After Expansion
We don't have a lot of experience with this yet. All we really have to go on is Greensboro in 2006. And that experience was bizarre and great for the casual fan. There is no longer a throw-away play-in game. Thursday is packed with 4 games. My thought going into Greensboro was that every session would be tough, the new schools would be excited about their first tournament and would travel well, and that buying anything at face value early would pay off. WRONG. Early before each session, a lot of sales were happening at face value. But, starting about 15 minutes before game time, the bottom dropped out. There were tickets everywhere. $20 lower level seats, and $10 uppers could be had with a little looking. Literally a couple of hundred people were walking around the front entrance holding up tickets. When you see people holding up tickets like that in a state where scalping is illegal, you know it is a buyers market and you'll get a bargain. Every theory I had about what was going to happen turned out to be wrong.

What will Tampa be like?

I have no idea. The last thing we have to look at with the tournament outside NC is when it went to DC in 2005. I was only there for 1 days, but the tickets were very, very hard to get. I think 4 things caused that:

  1. It was a pretty compelling tournament with a decent year for the league.
  2. With a site away from the Big Four, UNC, Duke, Wake, and State fans had to get rooms and as long as they were there, they were going to the games, or weren't easily able to hand off un-used tickets to others.
  3. Without good parking near the arena, it took away the natural area to shop for tickets. Cops were running off buyers from the Metro station, and there just wasn't a good spot to find buyers.
  4. Police were very aggressive in discouraging any transactions at all. Even people wanting to sell at face value were scared to even try.
So Tampa again is a real wild-card. You have to figure most people with tickets had to have already made travel plans, or given their tickets to others who have. The seeding was so up in the air at such a late date, that you'd think most people planned on going for Thursday.

BUT, it may be that with Carolina slumping, Duke down this year, State out of the running for anything meaningful, Clemson being a general letdown, etc, maybe a lot of people aren't going at all. The big question is whether or not their tickets show up.

Public Sale of Tickets.
I've never seen anything quite like this happen before.

ACC Tournament Prioritized Ticket Lottery
As you may know, the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament has not had a public sale of ticket books in nearly 40 years. However, some ACC patrons are concerned about being able to use their tickets for four straight days in Tampa. Tickets deemed unusable by ACC patrons for Thursday's sessions will be sold back to the St. Pete Times Forum and then resold based on a lottery system. In the event that we are fortunate enough to receive tickets back, we will be making them available to you, our biggest supporters.

Thursday, March 8, 2007
Session 1*- 12 p.m.

Session 2*- 7 p.m.
*each session consists of two games; teams TBD.
* The above order form(s) are strictly for the usage of ACC Tournament Prioritized Ticket Lottery orders, any reference to Lightning ticket plans, maps, etc are not valid.

Lottery winners will be contacted a week in advance for the Thursday Sessions. Calls will be made to ticket winners only and no voice messages will be left due to tight time constraints and limited availability. Only two (2) tickets per account to one (1) of the two game options will be made available.

Please call Premium Services at 813-301-6800 with any questions.

Online Ticket Market
In years past checking ebay and other online venues for ticket sales generally have books or session tickets at around double the face value.

Face Value this year appears to be $363 per book based on a couple of listings I've seen.

Looking around a bit online
Ebay is all over the place.
Some decent lower level books going for under face value, with a few hours left. That could be bid way up. Some other cases of single book upper at $900. Ebay generally does get a little wild like this, and sometimes hard to tell which transactions may not quite be real.

StubHub has some 3rd level books as low as $200. Lower Levels always get a premium, but they are $1K or more on StubHub at this point.

Craig's List for Triangle area has uppers at or just below face value. A few lower levels at or just above Face value.

Scalping Legal?
This is the most intriguing part of trying to predict this market. Scalping is Legal in FL.
Gov. Jeb Bush recently signed a bill that eliminates Florida's 60-year-old ticket scalping law, which forbids selling tickets for more than $1 above the face value of the ticket. In its place will be an open-market system that allows ticket owners and Internet brokers to sell tickets at whatever price the buyer agrees to pay. It will take effect July 1.

"In most circumstances, it will allow ticket resale prices to be determined by market demand," said Kristy Campbell, spokeswoman for the governor's office. "Under the old law, scalping was a second-degree misdemeanor."

What's a fan to do?
I haven't done a very good job of predicting games this year, so take my predictions for this ticket market for what it's worth, maybe nothing.

UNC and NC State to a lesser extent, drive the acc tournament ticket market, especially when it is in North Carolina. With UNC in a funk and the fans a little less than excited, and with State a lost cause for this year, these fans aren't going to travel well. There is a chance that UVA and VaTech fans will be excited, but they aren't used to hopping in the car in droves to go support their teams and I don't expect them to now with tampa being such a haul. Also, the lack of a powerful Duke team hurts the general buzz around this tournament this year. So, my belief is that this will be one of the best tournaments ever for the fan of acc basketball who wants to see some great and unpredictable basketball.

Based on what I've seen online and the fact that many people I know who generally go and who aren't, there will be more tickets than fans. Additionally, for those who do make the trip, with so many games in the expanded tournament and probably some suprising early exits, the draw of warm weather, golf, and all the fun Tampa has to offer will pull some fans away from the games freeing up more tickets. So my advice is go for it.

In another post I'll put info with directions, parking, and other helpful hints. Here is how to get a good ticket at a decent price:
  • Get to games early, at least an hour before start.
  • DO NOT buy tickets when you first get out of the car. If you see a lot of tickets as you drive in or first get out, and especially if sellers with that "Scalper" look are holding them up, it is probably a buyers market. Walk all the way to the main entrance of the building to survey the entire scene before making a purchase.
  • Be SURE you have a seating chart.
  • As several people who are selling, scalper or not, for what section and the price. Get a feel for the market. Also get a look at tickets from a few different people so you know what the real deal looks like and don't screw up and buy counterfit tickets (I've never seen it happen at the tournament, but it could).
  • If there are a lot of sellers, shop for location. Lower level seats always cost more, but often are really worth it.
  • Don't panic and buy too quick. Often times, starting at about 15 min. before the game, the market shifts and prices change.
  • If there are more buyers than sellers, try to move away from other buyers, find a spot with some decent foot traffic of people coming from cars to games, but away from a lot of other buyers. Even if you have to go to a spot where it only seems there is a bit of traffic, it may be worth it. For example, in Greensboro, behind the building where there is a small parking lot works great. Not as many sellers, but almost no buyers.
I'll also try to post after Thursday sessions to let you know what the market looks like. Good luck.


Ken White said...

Already got a little feedback on this from a friend, who is mad that I might have given away my best secrets and we'll struggle for tickets in Gboro next time.

Anonymous said...

So he's assuming that many people are reading the blog?

Ken White said...

It is RE. He's always a little paranoid.

Anonymous said...

That explains it then...

Da guru said...

Ken White, if there is any way you can contact me, please email me at harryrizvi@gmail.com. I really want to go to the ACC tournament but i'm a college student and don't have that kind of money to pay 800 for everything. I would like to ask you some questions and see if you think getting tickets right now would be as easy as it was in 2006. Thanks.

if anyone knows about scalping in greensboro please contact me!

Belindalang said...

I noticed your weblbog through a AOL search, How did you get your website to show up in a Internet search?

Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here It's always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained I'm sure you had fun writing this article.

ebay tickets selling