Saturday’s Big Ten Football Championship game is shaping up to be the biggest moneymaker in the event’s three-year history at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Attendance for the game pitting nationally ranked No. 2 Ohio State Uiversity and No. 10 Michigan State University is expected to be 65,000-plus—24,000 more than last year when unranked University of Wisconsin met No. 14 University of Nebraska.
Attendance for this year’s game is also expected to top the inaugural game in 2011 when just more than 64,000 watched Wisconsin beat Michigan State.
Tickets for this year’s game have been sold out for weeks, and although game organizers aren’t saying how many of the 137 LOS suites are available, three ticket brokers told IBJ only four remained vacant as of Wednesday.
“This is by far the most demand we’ve had for tickets for a Big Ten football championship,” said Renny Harrison, managing partner for Indianapolis ticket broker Fanfare Tickets. “This is the type of demand we thought we’d have when the Big Ten first announced the event was coming to Indianapolis.”
Ticket brokers said 65 percent to 80 percent of ticket buyers for this year’s game are supporters of Ohio State, which is playing for a chance to compete in the BCS national championship game Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand from the Ohio State faithful since they were on probation last year,” said Mike Peduto, partner in Indianapolis-based Circle City Tickets. “The demand was already good, but when Ohio State beat Michigan last week, our phones really lit up, and that has pushed demand up even higher.”
Tickets for the game have a face value of $90 to $175, but on the secondary market, ticket brokers reported the range is between $140 to $600.
“That’s certainly a lot better than last year when we were selling tickets for the game for $50,” Peduto said. “Some ticket brokers last year took a bath.”
Ticket brokers aren’t the only ones cashing in this year. Hoteliers also are seeing a big uptick in business.
“Though we won’t have the exact numbers for two weeks, this weekend’s downtown hotel occupancy appears to be a virtual sellout," with hotels as far out as Columbus helping fill demand, said Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl.
Last year, downtown hotels had an occupancy rate of 86.1 percent on the Friday before the game and 96.5 percent on the Saturday the game was played, according to Visit Indy. That means about 1,250 more hotel rooms—in downtown alone—have been sold this year compared to last year. Local hospitality experts think at least 4,000 more hotel rooms across central Indiana have been sold this year for the Big Ten championship than were sold a year ago.
“We’re hearing from a lot of our clients that are asking about hotel rooms,” Peduto said. “They’re telling us they’re going to be staying at least one night.”
All those extra visitors and extended stays add up.
“We are estimating $15 million in economic impact to be generated by this weekend’s event, up from an estimated $12 million in 2012,” Gahl said.
Attendance and interest in the game is also being fueled by new features associated with the game, said Indiana Sports Corp. spokesman John Dedman.
ESPN’s "College GameDay" will broadcast live from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday on the Pan Am Plaza—a first for the game. Several new attractions have also been added to festivities along Georgia Street including live music on Friday and an eating contest on Saturday.
“We’re having a two-day tailgate party on Georgia Street, and we’ve added some programming that’s drawing quite a bit of attention,” Dedman said. “We expect thousands of fans to come and watch ESPN’s 'GameDay' on Saturday morning, and tens of thousands more to visit Georgia Street and Big Ten Fan Fest at the Indiana Convention Center. Downtown is going to be packed this weekend for sure.”