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There may be pent-up demand for football in the middle of a pandemic, but that apparently isn’t translating into hot NFL ticket sales for the first week of the regular season.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars have experienced some lagging demand for their home openers this week, multiple league and ticket resale sources told Yahoo Sports. This despite being the only franchises to feature live crowds in their home openers this weekend — and with seating being at a very limited capacity.
The lukewarm sales have translated into both teams having a surplus of tickets still available through box office outlets such as Ticketmaster, plus a sagging secondary market that has a generous amount of tickets available at or below face value as late as Wednesday afternoon.
Saliva COVID-19 tests for Chiefs suite ticket holders
Jaguars seats have historically been plentiful and in low demand on the secondary market. That could explain why some field-level seats for Jacksonville’s home opener versus the Indianapolis Colts could still be had for as little as $50 to $60 per ticket on Wednesday.
The wide availability of Thursday’s Chiefs home opener against the Houston Texans has been an eyebrow-raiser across the ticket market. Not only because the Chiefs are coming off a Super Bowl win after the 2019 season and feature league centerpiece Patrick Mahomes, but also because Thursday’s prime-time game represents the kickoff to the 2020 NFL season and Kansas City was planning to limit the crowd to 16,000 fans.
Despite those draws, multiple sources familiar with Chiefs ticket sales told Yahoo Sports the team has had to work deep into its base of season-ticket holders to move higher-priced seats while also assuring fans of the safest possible environment. That effort has included Kansas City tackling a suite-level ticket issue that has been a conundrum for many franchises attempting to troubleshoot the safety of fans who will be in a partially enclosed suite environment. Kansas City has gone as far as shipping an OMNIgene ORAL saliva test to suite ticket holders, which the fans are asked to administer and then send to a predetermined lab for analysis. Should a suite ticket holder test positive for COVID-19, the Chiefs have a privacy-protected procedure that alerts the fans and prohibits their attendance.
Even with the safety measures and limited availability for seating, there have been some sales headwinds.
Are fans taking wait-and-see approach before diving in?
As of Wednesday, Ticketmaster and StubHub had Chiefs tickets available in virtually every section of the stadium, with group packages arranged in “pods” of two, four, five and six seats. A number of the seats were also priced at or near face value — remarkable for a game that likely would have had intense buying interest if it were not for the pandemic.
“The game was a $350 get-in price [on the secondary market] at first — now it’s $150,” one broker said Wednesday. “Do the math on that. Club level seats were $900 to $1,000 to $1,200. Now they’re down to $525 to $600. And the team still has tickets they will sell you right now on Ticketmaster. You don’t need me to tell you it’s not going well. It’s right there in front of your face.”
“Normally, this would be completely sold out pretty much as fast as you could pick up a phone [to call season-ticket holders],” one source familiar with the ticket sales said this week. “But it wasn’t really like that, even with the [crowd] size being cut down the way it has. I think it’s obvious it’s going to take a little bit of time before people are ready to come back in again.”
One Chiefs source said the team is confident ticket sales will continue to ramp up into kickoff on Thursday night, while likening the ticket sales efforts to restaurants working to draw patrons back.
“I’m sure some people will kind of want to wait and see how it goes at first,” the Chiefs source said. “And then as time goes on, you’ll see more come back.”
Complaints over gameday experience, player protests
Ticket brokers also described a variety of other factors weighing on the secondary sales market, ranging from rainy weather to complaints about the NFL leaning into social justice efforts to the Chiefs’ ticket pricing for the first game. And of course, all of the hurdles related to COVID-19.
“Have you seen the Doppler radar?” one broker asked. “That’s a part of it, too. You can’t discount the experience, either. You have to put a mask on, you have to go through all this stuff to get into the stadium, you have to go through all this stuff to get to your seat, you can’t take the mask off.
“Even when the Chiefs sucked, fans always knew they were going to have a great time inside Arrowhead on game day. That’s not what this is going to be like. Even in the worst times, it was like going to Coachella or a rock concert. This is going to be like going to a piano recital. You can’t ignore the experience that this will be and whether people want to pay for that.”
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