Keeper of the Plans

NCAA tickets in Wichita are some of the priciest around. Why?

Analyzing the economic impact of the NCAA Tournament

The NCAA Tournament is upon us, but the madness of March goes beyond the court. The amount of money the TV industry, its advertisers and fans spend on the tournament are pretty crazy too.
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The NCAA Tournament is upon us, but the madness of March goes beyond the court. The amount of money the TV industry, its advertisers and fans spend on the tournament are pretty crazy too.

Tickets to see the University of Kansas play basketball in Wichita this week may cost you more than going to the Final Four.

That's the reality of the second-hand ticket market, as basketball fans who want tickets to the NCAA men's basketball tournament games in Wichita may get sticker shock.

The cheapest two-game Wichita "session" tickets available on the NCAA Ticket Exchange as of Monday afternoon started at $97.75.

But for the Kansas basketball game early Thursday, the cheapest session tickets Monday were $297.50.

Ticket prices on the exchange, the NCAA's official resale outlet, fluctuated throughout the afternoon Monday, continued to do so at press time and are expected to fluctuate throughout the week.

At other sites. such as Pittsburgh, Dallas and San Diego, session tickets could be had for well under $100 — as low as $63.75 in Dallas on Monday afternoon.

Out of the eight first- and second-round sites, only Boise is averaging higher-priced session tickets through the NCAA Ticket Exchange.

Why are tickets at Intrust Bank Arena so much more expensive than at venues in those other cities?

There are a few reasons, according to officials in the secondary ticket marketplace.

"In terms of a cocktail-napkin why, obviously fan excitement in Kansas is presumably high," said Sean Burns, marketing director for Ticket Club, an online ticket reseller. "Wichita looks like, based on our figures — outside of the Boise market — the strongest performer thus far" on the resale market.

KU plays here

This may seem obvious, but because KU fans plan to pack the house for the Jayhawks' games at the arena, tickets for those sessions are pricey.

Tickets for the other Wichita first-round session — featuring no team closer than two states away — averaged about $160 less per ticket Monday afternoon than for sessions involving KU.

"It's not exactly a home game (for Kansas), but it's certainly close enough," Burns said. "Kansas draws people from all over the state, and there's plenty of Jayhawk fans in Wichita."

Transportation to Wichita is cheap for most KU fans, who can likely drive here. As a result, they're more willing to pay a premium on tickets, Burns said. That, in turn, causes the market to "spin upwards."

"Let's face it — it's Kansas basketball," he said. "When have they not been one of the most popular teams in the country? I imagine you'll get some good home field, as long as they survive and advance."

A matter of capacity

Part of the issue is supply and demand.

Intrust Bank Arena has a capacity of 15,750 — more than Boise's arena at 12,644 or San Diego's at 12,414 but less than Dallas, Pittsburgh, Detroit and other larger host cities, whose arenas can hold at least 20,000.

"A limited supply is causing that price to increase," said Kyle Zorn, a data analyst at TickPick, another online ticket marketplace. "There's just more supply, more capacity to these other venues, whereas this is a much smaller arena."

All-session tickets to the Final Four, which will be played in the 72,000-seat Alamodome, start at $249.

In comparison, all-session tickets to the Wichita games through the NCAA Ticket Exchange started at $637.50 on Monday afternoon.

Also, the games begin four days after the teams are announced on Selection Sunday, giving fans little time to make plans to come to Wichita.

"That's why (the NCAA likes) to schedule a mix of these medium and smaller-sized venues for the first few rounds," Burns said. "There's no guarantee you're going to get a sellout, and ... you don't necessarily want to have a big cavernous building for those first couple rounds. The turnaround's really fast.

"By the time you get to the Final Four, you could put it in the biggest building in the world and still get a sellout."

Wichita's main event

If you haven't noticed, the city of Wichita has been preparing to host this tournament for the last couple of years.

It's a major deal for the city, and most everyone in Wichita is at least aware it's going on.

Does that make a difference for ticket prices here?

"I would say it wouldn't factor in as much as the capacity of the arena, but it is a factor," Zorn said. "If it's one of the main things going on that weekend, ... the more people that want to go to the games, the more it's going to cause the price to increase."

It's possibly a similar story in Boise, where one of its two Round of 64 session tickets starts at $361.25. Its other first-round session is sold out on the NCAA Ticket Exchange resale site.

In cities such as Dallas and San Diego, there are other events planned that have nothing to do with the NCAA men's basketball tournament — though, admittedly, most of the other action simmers down during the tournament.

"Some markets are just saturated with things all over the place," Burns said. "Then there are smaller markets that just aren't, and the organizers have that marketing benefit. You have people already in the city or close by buying tickets because this is an exciting event, whether or not my team's there."

If you're interested in perusing the NCAA Ticket Exchange for tickets to the Wichita games, visit www.ncaa.com/tickets/basketball-men/d1. You could also try calling the ticket offices of schools that will play here, such as Penn or the University of Montana, which may have leftover tickets to sell.

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