"It's gotten to where it's almost a joke," said Brett Daniels, chief operating officer of the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee. "I think everybody realizes we're here to put on the game, not sell tickets."
While the eyes of the sports world will be on Atlanta on Feb. 3, local residents figure to be heavily outnumbered in Mercedes-Benz Stadium by fans of the participating teams and other out-of-towners.
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In fact, of the Falcons’ roughly 60,000 season-ticket holders, only 1,344 are known to have been guaranteed the right to purchase Super Bowl LIII tickets at face value. Those fortunate folks own Falcons season tickets in the most exclusive club seats, having paid $45,000 for personal seat licenses, and were assured the right to buy Super Bowl tickets as part of their PSL contracts. They won’t get their same premium seats for the big game, but they’ll be in the building.
For most other Atlantans — unless you're a Falcons player or coach or maybe an executive with one of the team's corporate sponsors or suite holders — the two most likely ways to get Super Bowl tickets are by purchasing them on the secondary (resale) market or by buying "hospitality packages" that bundle game tickets with pregame parties and other perks.
In either case, the cost is considerable.
Despite dropping significantly after the New England Patriots-Los Angeles Rams matchup was set, prices on the secondary market still were around $2,500 (plus fees) for the cheapest seats as of Thursday, with an average list price above $6,000 and high-end prices surpassing $20,000 for prime lower-level seats. The hospitality packages sold by On Location Experiences, an official NFL partner, have ranged from $2,622 to $17,500.
If such prices aren't a deterrent, plenty of resale tickets remain available. Thousands are listed on the secondary market, including 3,900 on StubHub alone at mid-week. On Location, which had access to about 10,000 tickets from the NFL, also has packages still available.
Brett Goldberg, co-CEO of ticket reseller TickPick, said only 13 percent of tickets sold through his marketplace have been to buyers from Georgia. That’s in line with last year’s Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis; 12 percent of the tickets sold then went to Minnesotans.
Similarly, StubHub said 11 percent of its Super Bowl LIII ticket sales have been to Georgians. And another marketplace, SeatGeek, said only 4.5 percent of its shoppers for tickets – shoppers, as opposed to necessarily buyers -- have been from Atlanta, less than from Boston (21.3 percent), New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.
Goldberg said the resale price of Super Bowl tickets is driven mostly by demand from fans of the participating teams and corporate buyers who use the event to entertain clients or customers from around the nation and the globe. And as the ticket prices have climbed into the thousands of dollars in recent years, it’s harder for fans in the host city to justify the cost without having their team in the game, Goldberg said.
“I mean, the halftime show is cool and all,” he said, but it’s “passion for a team” that often drives purchase decisions at such big bucks.
The Super Bowl is different from other major sports events in that the NFL, which controls the ticket inventory, offers no open-to-the-general-public sale at face value. The league also doesn’t publicize the face-value prices, which are believed to range from about $1,000 to $5,000. But the general public never gets a shot at face-value prices, anyway.
Instead, the NFL allocates tickets at those prices to the participating teams (each is believed to get about 17.5 percent), the host team (4.5 percent), the other 29 teams (about 1.2 percent each) and the league office (about 25.2 percent).
Teams and the league assign some tickets from those allotments to On Location for sale in the hospitality packages. The participating teams also sell some of their allotted tickets directly to season-ticket holders, although how many generally remains a mystery, and make others available to sponsors, employees, players’ families, etc. Much of the league’s allotment is sold to sponsors and business partners.
Many of the tickets — as many as 20,000, Goldberg estimated — eventually end up on the secondary market for resale.
Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said the organization’s 4.5-percent allotment as host team will be used to satisfy contractual commitments to the high-end PSL holders, sponsors, business partners, players (each of whom gets the right to purchase two tickets) and coaches (each of whom gets four tickets). Separately, suite holders get one seat for every two suite seats they hold the rest of the year.
“I have never been as challenged as we are as a hosting team (with tickets),” McKay said last week. “We are trying to figure out if we are going to have any available for our associates to purchase.”
Steve Cannon, CEO of Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s group of businesses, noted that the Falcons had access to far more tickets for Super Bowl LI in Houston two years ago, when the team was a participant, than they have for this game in Atlanta.
“I’m telling all my friends, ‘I saw you in Houston. But sorry, this one’s on CBS or it’s on Ticketmaster,’ ” Cannon said.
(Resale tickets are available on Ticketmaster’s NFL Ticket Exchange, as well as on numerous other secondary market sites.)
The Atlanta host committee received the right to purchase 750 tickets from the NFL as part of the city’s bid to host the game. The committee used most of those in local sponsorship deals with Atlanta-based companies to help fund the costs of hosting, Daniels said.
Among those who won’t get tickets to the game: the 10,000 people serving as volunteers to welcome visitors to the city during Super Bowl week. Potential volunteers were warned before applying last year that they wouldn’t get access to tickets and wouldn’t work inside the stadium on game day.
The Falcons’ McKay recently spoke to a Buckhead business group hungry for access to the big game.
“William Pate (CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau) was nice enough to introduce me and tell them I had tickets for all of them if they wanted them,” McKay said. “I told them, ‘Not only is that not true, but it is also not possible.’”