February 15, 2014

Prices for tickets to Shockers' last two home games skyrocket

If you want to bear personal witness to the last two home games of Wichita State University’s historic run for an undefeated season, you can.

If you want to bear personal witness to the last two home games of Wichita State University’s historic run for an undefeated season, you can.

But it’ll cost you.

Both Saturday’s game against Drake and the regular-season finale March 1 against Missouri State are long since sold out. But as of Friday, a handful of tickets remained on, WSU’s official site for fans to sell tickets to each other.

For the Missouri State game, the lowest price for seats available in a pair are $222 each. That’s for the 26th row of the upper deck in the corner of the Charles Koch Arena.

The highest price is $332 for seats that are actually a bit worse – 30th row of the upper corner.

Only seven seats were available for sale as of Friday.

The Drake game’s a comparative bargain at a mere $140 each to sit in the rafters of the arena, ranging up to $222 each for seats in the 20th row along the baseline. A whopping 16 tickets were available.

According to WSU’s price sheet, the face value of its basketball tickets ranges from $20 for general admission – half that for students’ guests – to $55 for premium seats in the lower reserved section.

Jeff Noble, an associate professor of sports management at the university, said the spike in prices on the resale market is a classic example of the law of supply and demand at work.

The Shockers are 26-0 after an unexpected run to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament last year and are currently ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press media poll and No. 2 in the USA Today coaches poll.

That makes them Wichita’s hot ticket. Supply is low, demand is high and, as a result, the prices are well above ordinary levels, Noble said.

One thing holding the supply down is longtime fans who stayed loyal to the yellow and black through many a forgettable year – and who aren’t about to sell off their seats now that the team is verging on a perfect season.

Fans such as Larry Frutiger, a season-ticket holder since about the time he got his master’s degree in engineering at WSU in 1968.

“I buy the tickets to go to the games, not to make money,” Frutiger said while having lunch with his church’s men’s group Friday at the Old Chicago pizza restaurant near Towne East Square.

He said he attends almost every game, while his wife, Jan – a bit less captivated by basketball – accompanies him about half the time.

Asked how many dollars it would take to get his tickets out of his hands, Frutiger replied: “I’ve never really thought about that. I suppose if they got ridiculously priced, like $1,000, I might think about it.

“Jan would think about it in a heartbeat,” he added, laughing.

His friend and lunchmate George Crandall is a 20-year season-ticket holder whose wife, Nancy, is the Wichita State alumna.

The couple have season tickets for basketball and volleyball. He said he’s planning on going to both the remaining games, but if he didn’t, he’d give his tickets to friends or relatives.

“I won’t sell,” he said.

For comparison’s sake, the cost of getting into a WSU game is higher than comparable seats at the University of Kansas, the state’s traditional basketball powerhouse.

The lowest-priced nosebleed seats for KU’s Feb. 22 matchup with Texas are $208 each, $14 less than a comparable seat for the same day’s Shocker game.

You can get a seat at KU’s March 5 season finale against Texas Tech for $106, less than half the cost for the WSU-Missouri State game.

The highest-priced seats for KU are much higher than Wichita State’s. Near-courtside tickets are on Stubhub as high as $1,936.

Bargain hunters might go for Kansas State University. The Wildcats’ last two home games of the season are March 1 against Iowa State – $60 for the lowest-priced ticket – and March 8 against Baylor, $52.55.

The more Wichita State wins, the more the university will be able to charge for tickets and TV rights. And increasingly, athletic departments are using the resale market to guide decisions on where to set the face value for tickets, Noble said.

Time and ongoing team success will tell whether the current ticket prices are a bubble or the start of an upward trend. A big part of it is reputation.

According to Noble, KU has that and remains a ticket in demand even though its current season – 19 wins and six losses as of Saturday – is not what its fans had hoped for when KU signed one of the nation’s top-rated recruiting classes.

Noble compares WSU to Gonzaga, a once-obscure university in Spokane, Wash., that has parlayed basketball to national prominence. The Zags had their best season in 1998-99, advancing to the Elite 8 in the March Madness tournament.

Although Gonzaga has never matched that performance – WSU upset the top-seeded Zags last March en route to the Final Four – the team has been in the tournament every year since and has established a national reputation as a consistently quality program.

WSU now has its chance to get to that level, Noble said.

“It’s probably going to take a few more years of pretty good runs in the tournament.”

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