2013 Final Four: lessons learned on buying tickets for big games

2013 NCAA Final Four tickets Wichita State Shockers

This is the second of a two-part guest post from Lee about our amazing road trip to follow one of our favorite teams to the NCAA Championship … something neither of us were sure would happen in our lifetime! Read his first post if you missed it.

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Yes, I was disappointed when Wichita State lost to Louisville in the 2013 NCAA national championship semifinal but the ride had been more than I ever expected. Five months of all the ups and downs with the Shockers can be frustrating but when they made it to the Final Four I had to go.

When your team finally makes it to a big game, you want to be there to feel the excitement and if you’re a big fan like I am, you also want to see the game. That can be difficult to do without going into debt, because events of this caliber are played in 80,000+-seat domes that are built for football games.

Maybe sharing what I discovered this year will help if you ever decide to go to a championship-type event.

I’ve bought tickets through many different avenues over the years: Craigslist, ebay, StubHub, Ticketmaster, directly from the team/venue and from individuals outside the venue right before the start of a game. MeLinda once bought tickets from a guy named Chicken outside the dome in St. Louis to see a Rams game, but the tickets were only $20 bucks so there wasn’t much of a risk.

But when the stakes are this high and the tickets are going for crazy amounts, you want a little security that you will actually have a ticket that is legit after forking over hundreds of dollars.

From the moment the Shocks made the Final Four, I started looking at ticket prices online and trying to decide when to buy them. I have been going to Shocker games for more than 25 years but the tickets have always been in my uncle’s name. I’ve also traveled to watch the team play in tournaments in Las Vegas, Orlando and Puerto Rico but I bought tickets from the venue not WSU. So I have no clout when it comes to SASO (the athletic scholarship organization that uses a points system to award tickets to its most loyal and generous fans).

When I called the WSU ticket office on the Monday after the Shockers won the Western Regional to advance to the Final Four, they couldn’t tell me what sections I could end up in. I was worried that if I bought tickets through WSU, I would end up in nose-bleed seats. I at least wanted to be able to see the court without using binoculars.

2013 NCAA Final Four tickets Wichita State Shockers Georgia Dome

This shows the enormity of the Georgia Dome when it’s set for a basketball game rather than the usual football game. This was right before the Final Four game started and there are still quite a few available seats, partially because many of the fans of the second semifinal matchup waited to enter the stadium.

At the beginning of the week, ticket prices on StubHub were crazy: most tickets were going for at least $1,000 apiece and that was for seats behind the basket or in the highest sections of the enormous Georgia Dome, which is where the Atlanta Falcons play. We know a Wichita State fan who bought tickets on StubHub right after the Shockers won to advance to Atlanta, and she paid $1,100 per ticket for lower-level seats that were sorta on the corner/behind the basket. These were for both games Saturday and the championship game on Monday. She wanted to buy early because she needed six seats together. We actually considered buying seats in this same section the day before the Final Four game and the prices were about $700 per ticket.

Because of those early prices, I branched out my search from StubHub to ebay and Craiglist and found something that I immediately wondered if it was too good to be true. I should have known when that happens it is a scam.

Scam #1

2013 NCAA Final Four tickets Wichita State Shockers Georgia Dome

The actual Craigslist ad we saw.

I traded emails with this person in Canada who listed on Craigslist lower level, corner tickets for $350 total – that included both games on Saturday as well as Monday’s championship game. While the seat location wasn’t perfect, the price was just barely over face value.

Canada is the place you say your girlfriend lives when you are a loser, right? But this person gave me her name and she told a good story about how she got the tickets in the first place. She even gave us an email address that was connected to a website. We checked out the website and it existed, and among the staff bios there was even a bio of the woman I was told I was corresponding with.

This played out for about a day until we saw the light and were certain this was a scam. There were several things that triggered our skepticism besides the reasonabe price – including the fact that when MeLinda looked at the website registration, the site had only been in existence for three months. The final straw was a request to send money to an Ethiopian prince through Western Union.

2013 NCAA Final Four tickets Wichita State Shockers Georgia Dome

The person who placed the Craigslist ad claimed to be this person and had a matching email address.

So I went back to the drawing board. It was the middle of the week and we were heading out for the road trip to Atlanta.

I was starting to get a little panicked but I also knew prices would go down. Still, I didn’t want to miss out on getting a ticket. Each day I continued to look at the options (I once took over a year to buy a car so I do have patience) and with every day we got closer to Saturday’s game, more tickets became available and the prices continued to drop.

Scam #2

Once again, Craigslist tickets popped onto my radar on Thursday and we traded emails with a guy in “Texas.” He had a great story about how he had started going to Final Fours a few years back whether his team was there or not, just because they were so much fun. He said he’d be sitting in the seats right next to the ones he was selling. After repeated attempts to speak via phone failed, we again decided he was a scam artist.

We continued to get texts from this individual on Saturday even though we saw the very tickets he was trying to sell us for sale on Ebay. Amazingly, he always told us he just happened to have a friend who also needed to get rid of some tickets.

2013 NCAA Final Four Georgia Dome Wichita State Shockers

I finally decided buying from an individual had too many drawbacks and would only buy from a reputable outlet. This was a tough decision because I love getting a bargain and the tickets on ebay were going for lower prices.

We arrived in Atlanta on Friday and still didn’t have tickets. After checking into the hotel, we headed down to the area around the Georgia Dome where there were free concerts and all sorts of activities and festivities. We ran into some Shocker fans who bought their tickets through the school, so we figured out a few of the sections that would be full of WSU fans.

MeLinda had a good idea of going to the Georgia Dome to watch a free concert by Gym Class Heroes and part of the college all-star game. The events were free and it gave us a chance to see what the view was like from several sections we had seen for sale online. With venues made for football, like the Georgia Dome, it can be tough to look at a seating chart online and really know what view you will have during a basketball game.

There was a very small crowd and seating was general admission for the all-star game so we could pretty much walk around anywhere we wanted. I’m sure any onlookers were wondering why a couple was walking around the arena trying out seats. We finally had a good perspective of what view we would have and we also learned which sections had padded seats. I headed back to the hotel knowing the end was near and tickets would soon be bought.

I had narrowed down my search to StubHub and Ticketmaster with the help of a website called Seatgeek. Seatgeek shows you a seating chart of the venue and a compilation of seats for sale from many different ticket outlets. It also rates the ticket prices, letting you know if it considers the purchase a good or bad deal.

2013 NCAA Final Four tickets Wichita State Shockers Georgia Dome

Here’s an example of what Seatgeek looks like — this is for a Falcon’s game because we didn’t capture a screenshot when we were shopping for Final Four tickets. Notice the legend in the bottom left corner. If available, it also shows you a photo of your view from the section you’re looking at (see below for an example from the Kansas City Royals). However, this wasn’t much help because the view during a football game was drastically different than when the stadium is set with a small basketball court.

seatgeek

Finally about 11 p.m. on Friday I had made my choice and I went to buy two tickets for Saturday’s games (some purchases were for Saturday’s two games, some were for Saturday’s two games PLUS Monday’s title game). But when I went to check out on Ticketmaster, they added a 20 percent service fee (that would be $100 per ticket). I hate service fees and they are right up there with my distaste for paying for ice or getting a pizza delivered and paying for that service.

So once again I changed my course and decided to go through StubHub. They still had a service fee, but it was half of the Ticketmaster fee. Plus, I would be able to pick up actual hard tickets at a convenient site near the arena. The other good thing about these seats was that they were in the Shocker section we had identified earlier in the day and had padded seats.

Being patient definitely saved us quite a bit of money (I’d estimate around $400 for the seats we bought) though if I would have waited until Saturday morning there were even more tickets at better prices out there.

Initially all the tickets were at least a $1,000 that weren’t in the nose-bleed sections but by Saturday morning you could buy some lower level tickets toward the end of the court for around $700 a piece (once again that was only for Saturday’s game). To buy mid-court lower level like our season tickets at Koch Arena, you were still looking at the choice of buying a new Kia or two seats.

I will say the whole StubHub pickup process for tickets was very easy and convenient. I recouped some of the service fee by grabbing free popcorn and pop at StubHub’s pick-up center.

I was happy with the seats and really liked being in the Shocker section. Though I think if we had joined SASO, which was about a $500 fee on top of the ticket price of $150 each, we would have been sitting in the same area most likely. So another lesson learned, but I wasn’t willing to risk it since the WSU ticket office would never specify where the seats would be if I purchased through them.

2013 NCAA Final Four tickets Wichita State Shockers StubHub

Lee at the StubHub center picking up our tickets.

I had only purchased tickets for Saturday’s game figuring I would pick up Monday’s tickets, if necessary, from some dejected Louisville fan on the way out the door. Even though the true championship game is on Monday, the tickets for that game were relatively easy to obtain and at a price closer to face value. As the Shocker game was over the Louisville vultures were circling and asking anyone wearing black and gold if they had tickets for sale. You probably have half of a stadium wanting to get rid of tickets so the prices bottomed out but it still would be at least $200 for a ticket. The WSU fan behind us wanted to sell his championship tickets for $350 but most likely he would get $150.

The main lesson learned is be patient and don’t be too cheap so you can enjoy the game. I believe our seats were a happy medium. I’ll be better prepared for 2014 if the Shockers make it to play in the Final Four at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas!

2013 NCAA Final Four tickets Wichita State Shockers Georgia Dome

Lee and MeLinda in Section 243, Row 12 of the Georgia Dome.

This entry was posted in Lee, Sports, travel.

2 Comments

  1. Quailman May 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    Good advice, Lee — good thing I don’t work for the Domino’s near you!!

    • Melinda May 7, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      And if you ever come over to our house, bring your own ice. We don’t have any. Ever.

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