NCAA ticket scalpers making big bucks in Des Moines
Eight teams will play in the NCAA first and second round in Wells Fargo arena this week, in one minute learn which teams have never played each other before, who the whole thing in 2014 and more.
Des Moines' hottest ticket in five years isn't Taylor Swift or Garth Brooks — it's the start of the NCAA tournament, where a prime seat this weekend could cost you $1,800.
Iowans who purchased seats in advance at Wells Fargo Arena are finding they own a hot commodity. A full set of tickets for the weekend with face values of $228 and $270 are now selling for two to three times that amount.
Madison Ruhland posted on Facebook and Craigslist a pair of tickets for sale for Thursday's games, after realizing her class schedule wouldn't allow her to attend.
"Probably five people asked me about them in the first five or 10 minutes," she said.
The 19-year-old from Guthrie Center sold her upper-level corner tickets for Thursday within 30 minutes for $200 a piece, while holding on to her Saturday tickets.
"So, I think they are in high demand," she said.
That's a bit of an understatement.
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The average resale price on StubHub and SeatGeek for a full set of tickets to Thursday and Saturday games was just under $600 Tuesday, with some seats more than three times that high.
"It’s a hot ticket no matter who came here, but once the draw was done on Sunday and we found out who was coming, I think it skyrocketed," said Chris Connolly, general manager of Wells Fargo Arena.
Indeed, basketball royalty will be descending on Des Moines as it hosts its first NCAA men's basketball tournament games, including Kansas, Connecticut, Kentucky and Indiana. Those teams bring with them a combined 7,774 wins, 44 Final Four appearances and 20 national titles.
Snapping up pre-sale tickets
Months ago, locals gobbled up much of the ticket inventory through pre-sale events that gave first dibs to premium ticket-holders at the Iowa Events Center, Iowa State season ticket holders and partners of the Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Now, tickets prices on the secondary market for first- and second-round play in Des Moines are outpacing those at other regional host sites. Iowa is among a number of states that have no laws or regulations regarding ticket scalping.
Analyses by ticket vendors SeatGeek, StubHub and TiqIQ all show Des Moines has the most expensive NCAA tickets for an all-session set of seats, with SeatGeek and StubHub analysts saying most of their sales are coming from within Iowa and Kansas.
Connolly couldn't say how many people purchased tickets early on, but he said there was plenty of local interest in watching tournament games here, regardless of the fact that the University of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa all will play their NCAA match-ups outside Iowa.
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"Were there people that bought them as an investment? No question," Connolly said. "But I think the majority of people who bought them (early) are excited to come and watch the games."
Andrew Douglas of Huxley, Ia., purchased a ticket for about $230 in the fall. He had hoped to buy several tickets for friends but could only secure the one seat.
Then, last week, he won a grocery store drawing for two tickets. Now he expects to get at least $400 for his original ticket that secures a spot at all Des Moines tournament games.
"I was going to go regardless," he said. "My plan wasn’t to make a ton of money off of it, but then when the opportunity presented itself, I thought I would take advantage of it."
Low inventory, high demand
A ticket covering the first- and second-round games are the most expensive to any event in Des Moines since SeatGeek began collecting data in 2011, said Nate Rattner, a content analyst with the company.
"The single sessions in Des Moines are also hotter than the Taylor Swift and Vance Joy concert at Wells Fargo Arena last October," he said.
Tickets to the two second-round games on Saturday, not surprisingly, are going the highest. If Kansas beats 16-seed Austin Peay on Thursday, it will face the winner of Thursday's Connecticut-Colorado game on Saturday.
And the arena is primed for a Saturday match-up between Kentucky and Indiana, if they win their first-round games.
The Iowa Nice Guy breaks down all eight NCAA sites.
Holding on to tickets
Tickets for Saturday's two games were ranging between $230 and $849, according to SeatGeek.
That is, if you can get one.
Rattner said Des Moines tickets haven't been surfacing for resale as much as at other tournament sites. Fans are holding on to their tickets, which he suspects Kansas fans snatched up early, expecting the Jayhawks to begin their tournament bid in Iowa.
"If KU hadn't been drawn into this region, I think we would probably be seeing much more movement in the market," he said.
And ticket prices are likely to only go up, said Hal Wagner, owner of Ace Sports, a suburban Kansas City sports memorabilia store and secondary ticket vendor
"I think they will go up, especially with Kentucky, Indiana, KU and Connecticut," he said. "Those are some very good schools."
The store has seen an influx of Kansas fans looking for tickets and Des Moines and Louisville, Ky., host of Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games.
"We’ve had a lot of interest for Des Moines and for Louisville," Wagner said. "A lot of our fans are assuming that we should be getting to Louisville."
Tickets may trickle back
All of the eight teams playing in Des Moines on Thursday were given an allocation of 450 tickets to sell or distribute among fans, donors and friends and family of players and coaches.
If schools don't sell their entire allotment, those tickets will be returned to Wells Fargo Arena and made available to the general public. Fans can register for the waiting list on the Iowa Events Center website.
Don't expect any tickets to trickle back from the basketball blue bloods coming to Des Moines.
"I can tell you from past experience we travel well everywhere, said Eric Lindsey, spokesman for the University of Kentucky's basketball team. "It doesn't matter if it's in Des Moines, Iowa, our backyard in Louisville or Alaska. Our fans travel everywhere."
And the same goes for Indiana and Kansas.
"We will sell them to donors," KU Athletics spokesman Jim Marchiony said Monday morning. "They are already committed."
Even Austin Peay, a 16-seed facing the top-of-the-field Kansas, is poised to go sell through its share of tickets. The central Tennessee university of about 11,000 students instituted a waiting list early this week as it sorted through requests for tickets.
"We probably won't have anything left," said ticket manager Janet Wilson.
Connecticut officials said they were still selling tickets Tuesday.
"Obviously, with the game on a Thursday afternoon and so far away, there has not been a huge demand for tickets," said spokesman Phillip Chardis.
Tips for buying scalped tickets
Wells Fargo Arena maintains a relationship with ticket vendor StubHub. That allows them to ensure ticket legitimacy by checking the bar codes of tickets sold on that site.
The Des Moines Police Department offers several tips for buying secondhand tickets:
- Swap in-person purchases at a public place, such as the front steps of the police department's building, at 25 E. 1st St.
- Avoid high-pressured and rushed online interactions; beware of a seller unwilling to meet in person.
- Use a money transfer service such as PayPay, which has fraud policies in place, to provide extra protection.
- Avoid meeting with a person who won't provide a name and/or phone number.
- Take note of details like phone numbers and physical descriptions in case of fraud.
- Report fraud to the police; selling counterfeit tickets is illegal.