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Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - Page updated at 02:56 PM

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Information in this story, originally published January 24, 2006, was corrected January 24, 2006. The Seahawks gave season-ticket holders selected in a lottery the opportunity to buy two Super Bowl tickets each out of 75 percent of the tickets allotted to the franchise, or roughly 8,500 tickets. The remaining 25 percent will be retained by the team.

Seahawks

Ticket holders' dilemma: Motown or the money?

Seattle Times business reporter

Thousands of loyal Seahawks fans just won the lottery.

The question is: Do they follow their hearts, or their wallets?

The franchise drew names from among its 40,000 season-ticket holders Sunday night. The winners have until 7 p.m. Thursday to buy two of the team's roughly 8,500 tickets to Super Bowl XL at face value, about $600 each. They may shell out thousands more for airfare and accommodations in Detroit for the Feb. 5 game.

Or they can cash in, reselling their tickets through brokers and Web sites on the frenzied secondary market for the ultimate sports spectacle.

Despite an average market price of more than $3,000 reported by Internet ticket sites Monday, some economists said true fans will only sell if they absolutely have to.

"These tickets are usually not resold, especially by Hawks fans," said John Vrooman, professor at Vanderbilt University who teaches a class on sports economics. "It would be like messing with the Hawks' mojo now to sell a piece of the action."

This is no cold economic calculus of preferences, profits and ability to pay. Emotions are involved.

"The 'I was there when the Hawks rocked the Steelers' effect is priceless," Vrooman said, revealing his bias. "There is no substitute."

Is there?

We're talking about the potential of a 400 percent profit. And the game is still 12 days away. Prices could go up, or they could fall.

Brokers rarely pay face value for tickets. They scour the Internet for lottery winners who can't go, corporations that aren't using all their tickets, or football players and coaches who sometimes buy tickets just to resell them — a practice the NFL has cracked down on.

 SURVEY
If you won the right to buy two tickets to the Super Bowl what would you do?

Buy the tickets and go to the game.
Buy the tickets and sell them to the highest bidder.
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"Historically, it's not uncommon for a Super Bowl ticket to go for several thousand dollars," said Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College who has studied the financial impacts of sports teams. "There are some rich people who wouldn't think twice about spending that kind of money."

Other fans will think more than twice.

Bobby Bains, a Victoria, B.C., major-accounts representative for a cable company, has set his limit at about $1,500 per ticket. He based that on what he could afford, after budgeting another $1,500 for a weekend trip to Detroit.

A fan since 1982, Bains said a chance to sit on a 19-inch piece of hard plastic is worth $3,000.

"I've never been to a Super Bowl," he said. "Seattle's never made it to a Super Bowl."

The corporate world is a different story. There are 132 suites at Ford Field, ranging considerably in size and price.

TicketsNow.com, which connects ticket buyers and sellers, advertised Monday a 40-person luxury suite on the 40-yard-line for — are you sitting? — $261,000. Another Web site priced a box at $315,000. The median home price in the Detroit area last year was about $169,000.

"Most of those belong to corporations, and they're now finding their way onto the secondary market," said TicketsNow spokeswoman Jennifer Swanson. "The folks that buy those either have celebrity status or they are another corporation trying to highly impress some very influential clients."

Business class at the Super Bowl extends beyond the skyboxes. The NFL reserves about a quarter of the 67,500 seats to dole out to its corporate sponsors and friends. The league makes only 1 percent of the tickets available to the public.

USA Today cited NFL estimates last year that the median household income of those in the stands for Super Bowl XXXIX was $125,000.

"Basically, the NFL wants corporate America at the game," said Stephen Happel, a professor of economics at Arizona State University and an expert on secondary markets for sports tickets. "They use the ticket as a way to award their sponsors and others."

The game could be a tougher sell to business people this year given the economic clouds hanging over the Motor City, darkened most recently by Ford's announcement Monday of 30,000 layoffs.

And winter on the Detroit River will never be confused with Miami or San Diego. The average temperature there in February is 26 degrees Fahrenheit. "Bring your heavy winter coat, with hat, gloves and a scarf," recommends the Detroit Super Bowl XL Host Committee.

"Detroit's not a garden place in any way, shape or form," Happel said. "No laying by the pool or playing golf."

Among myriad challenges brokers face is the threat of counterfeit tickets.

Tony Jackson, 42, said he has attended the past six Super Bowls, buying tickets through connections with Seahawks he knows through a friend from work. Slim chance of anyone within the organization parting with their ducats this year. So Jackson's on the market.

"It's kind of rough out there," the Seattle man said in a raspy voice, sore from cheering on Sunday. "I just went to the Rose Bowl, and it was amazing how many people bought fake tickets to that."

Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or bromano@seattletimes.com.

Researcher David Turim contributed to this report.

"After watching my Hawks from all over the world, and staying a fan through the very thin years, the payoff was worth the wait! There will be a party in Missouri this February! Thank you, Seahawks, thank you, Seattle!"

Carie Ann Payne, Missouri

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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