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Intrust Bank Arena to use paperless ticketing for Church concert

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2012, at 7:57 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2012, at 11:21 p.m.

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Fans of country star Eric Church who intend to buy one of the closer seats at his Dec. 8 concert at Intrust Bank Arena will participate in a controversial ticket-buying process called paperless ticketing.

When tickets to the show go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, the seats closest to the stage, on the floor and in the lower bowl that sell for $42.50 and $47.50, will be sold using the system, which requires fans to buy tickets with a credit card then show up in person with that card and an ID at show time to claim the seats.

The bottom-tier tickets to Church’s show at the arena, which cost $37.50, will be sold using the traditional ticketing procedure.

The system is intended to battle second-party ticket sellers, who often gobble up large numbers of tickets and then re-sell them online, often at higher prices, boxing individual fans out of the best seats.

Paperless ticketing is controversial, though, because it can cause inconvenience for some ticket buyers. The credit card holder who bought the ticket must claim it in person, which could make things difficult for large groups who buy tickets together or parents who buy tickets for children. It also prevents individuals from re-selling their tickets if they become ill or if plans change.

New York has passed a law ensuring that consumers can transfer paperless tickets. Other states – including Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota and New Jersey – are considering similar legislation.

This is the first time Intrust Bank Arena is selling paperless tickets, said the arena’s general manager A.J. Boleski, and it’s being used at Church’s instruction.

“This initiative is something that Eric Church is doing on all of his fall tour dates, and it’s always been something that’s been important to him,” Boleski said. “He wants to make sure his fans buy the best seats and don’t have to pay double or triple or quadruple the price because they bought them from a scalper.”

Miley Cyrus was the first artist to use paperless ticketing on a large scale. In 2009, her tour used paperless ticketing exclusively.

The system is working well in other markets, said Boleski, and it’s giving fans first dibs on the best tickets rather than businesses such as StubHub, which use software bots to grab large number of tickets for resale later.

“It’s definitely a hot topic within the arena industry,” he said. “When we go to conferences, we talk a lot about how to make sure and ensure the guests and fans are the ones getting the best tickets and paying the advertised price for them and not just going on the Internet and paying whatever price pops up through a scalping agency.”

But some groups, including the vocal Fan Freedom Project (www.fanfreedom.org), are crusading to end paperless ticketing, which they say is restrictive and unfair.

Responding to questions via e-mail, Elizabeth Owen, the consumer advocate for the project, said the method hurts fans.

“We oppose paperless tickets because we believe fans are entitled to basic consumer and property rights, including the right to purchase tickets as gifts for our family and friends, and the right to give away or resell our tickets if plans change” she said. “With restrictive paperless tickets, that’s not the case. We believe fans should never have to lose hundreds of dollars because they bought a paperless ticket as a gift, their baby sitter cancelled or have business or family obligations arise.”

Under the system, fans must buy the tickets using a credit card in advance. The night of the show, employees with special scanners are on hand at the entrances. They check to make sure the card holder’s credit card and photo ID match, then they scan the card using a special scanner, which prints out a tiny receipt that leads buyers to their seats.

That means that if a group of eight people wants to attend a concert together, for example, members of the group must arrive at the same time with the person who bought the tickets. If that won’t work, they must purchase the tickets separately, meaning they likely won’t be sitting together.

If a ticket is purchased as a gift or for a teenager or child, the purchaser must come to the door with the attendees to get them in.

“There are going to be a few isolated inconveniences, but big picture-wise, the positives are much better than the other side,” Boleski said. “So far, the feedback has been pretty good.”

The arena does not have another show on its books that will use paperless ticketing, Boleski said. But it’s a trend Wichita could see more of in the future.

Tickets to the show go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, using the arena’s lottery system. The paperless tickets must be purchased using a credit card and will not be available at Select-A-Seat outlets. They can be purchased at the Intrust Bank Arena box office, at selectaseat.com and by calling 316-755-SEAT.

To discourage camping and ensure fairness, arena officials sell tickets using the lottery system whenever they expect particularly high demand.

Under the system, fans can start lining up at the arena box office at 7 a.m. Those who are there at 9 a.m. will be given a ticket with a number.

At 9:30 a.m., a random number will be drawn. That person becomes first in line, and everyone else lines up behind that person in numerical order.

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