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Sports Business

IU success drives Big Ten basketball tournament tickets skyward

March 9, 2016
KEYWORDS Sports Business

Forty-eight hours before Friday’s early session of the men’s Big Ten tournament, tickets were nearly sold out at the box office. And with Indiana headlining the slate of games, prices on the secondary market have been skyrocketing.

As the tournament readied for tip-off Wednesday, tickets for Saturday's semifinal games also were nearly sold out, with sales perhaps driven by speculation that IU and Purdue could be playing each other.

IU has vaulted to a No. 10 national ranking and has steamed through the Big Ten regular season at 15-3. Excitement among the school’s fan base has pumped up ticket prices on the secondary market for this week’s tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse higher than normal, ticket brokers said.

The tournament starts Wednesday with the 14-team conference’s lowest four seeded teams playing. Tickets for Wednesday’s sessions are going for as low as $5 on the secondary market, ticket brokers said.

Ticket sales for Thursday’s games are a bit soft, ticket brokers said, because none of the middle-seeded teams are coming on late in the season.

The top four seeded teams don’t play until Friday, with semifinal games on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. and the championship game scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday.

On Friday, IU—the tournament’s No. 1 seed—will play the winner of Thursday's Michigan-Northwestern game. Tip time is noon. Purdue, the No. 4 seed, will play in the second game of the early session double-header.

Local ticket brokers are selling seats in the club and lower levels of the 18,165-seat fieldhouse for up to $500 for Friday’s early session. That’s more than nine times face value. Tickets in the club and lower levels are starting at just under $300, ticket brokers said.

“This year we’re seeing higher demand for Big Ten tournament tickets than we have in quite a few years and that has a lot to do with how IU is playing,” said Mike Peduto, president of locally based Circle City Tickets

IU and Purdue fans can still snag an upper-level ticket relatively inexpensively at this point. But those tickets on the secondary market are still going for between $55 and $85, which is well above the $40 face value.

Peduto calls the demand “super strong.”

“This tournament when it’s in Indianapolis is heavily driven by IU. And these are meaningful games against good opponents, so that drives the prices even higher,” Peduto said. “But if Indiana loses, ticket prices will plummet.”

Renny Harrison, president of Carmel-based Fan Fare Tickets, said few other teams in any other market—and none in the Big Ten—drives conference tournament ticket prices like IU when the Big Ten tournament is in Indianapolis.

“Indiana is basketball country and the fans here are just rabid when it comes to IU,” Harrison said.

Michigan State, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, is the second best market in terms of ticket sales for this tournament, added Harrison. In addition to Purdue, some fans from Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa also are active on the secondary market, ticket brokers said. Many of the other markets where Big Ten schools reside are dormant.

To get an idea how much IU—and Purdue—are driving ticket sales at this year’s tournament in Indianapolis, consider the prices for the Friday night games that will feature MSU and No. 3 seed Maryland, which has been rated high all season long in national rankings.

Upper level tickets can be had for a little less than $50 for the Friday night session, while club and lower-level tickets are priced from $100 to $140, according to local ticket broker.

“We’re not disappointed by that,” Harrison said. “For a session here that doesn’t have IU, that’s actually pretty good.”

But if IU were playing in the after-work night session, Peduto said, club and lower-level seats would be going for $350 to $600.

The semifinal games Saturday and championship game Sunday are highly speculative right now. Lower level tickets for those games can be bought on the secondary market for about $100.

On Wednesday, lower level tickets for the Saturday and Sunday sessions on the secondary market were selling for between $100 and $200. If IU makes it, those prices could double, ticket brokers said.

“Saturday is often the better day,” Harrison said. “It’s a better day for people—and families—to get out and do things. But if IU makes the final, Sunday could be another big day.”

Big Ten tourney bracket 2016

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