NEW ORLEANS — To reach the worst seat in the Superdome, you have to ride five escalators, walk halfway around the stadium, climb 38 more steps and duck your head under a low-hanging awning.
That's where you'll find section 628, row 22, seat 6, the highest seat in the building directly behind one of the baskets.
Louisville senior Tre Wampler, the unfortunate owner of that seat for Saturday night's national semifinals, actually had to be among the 700 "winners" of a student lottery in order to secure his ticket. Bleary-eyed students began lining up at the Superdome at 5 a.m. in hopes of receiving floor seats, but Wampler and his friends didn't make it to the stadium until 9 a.m., which explains their nosebleed seats.
"It was a bit shocking to be up so high and to be so far away from the action, but we're happy to be here to support our team," Wampler said before the games tipped off. Then he added with confidence that proved to be incorrect, "Hopefully we'll be in the floor seats on Monday for the national championship game."
At a cavernous 77,000-seat stadium that typically only hosts football games, Wampler was hardly the only fan dissatisfied with his seat. Thousands of other fans in the 600-level paid as much as $400 or $500 on the secondary market to sit in seats so far from the court that a telescope would have been required to distinguish between the players or to see their facial expressions.
Louisville senior Justine Bates shelled out several hundred dollars on StubHub for her seats in the second-to-last row of section 633, a corner section as far removed from the floor as any in the stadium. Although Bates knew she'd be in the cheap seats, she didn't realize how far from the action she'd be sitting until she began climbing staircase after staircase to get to her section.
"Each one we had to go up, we got more and more depressed," Bates said. "Finally we reached the roof and we were happy because we couldn't go up anymore."
At least Bates didn't have to walk to her seat on a gimpy leg. Shepherdsville, Ky., resident Malcolm Crouse had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee last week, yet he still trekked on crutches to the last row in section 644 to see his beloved Wildcats face rival Louisville.
"It was a hike," Crouse said. "I didn't need to go to the gym today."
It never occurred to Crouse that climbing stairs would be difficult for him after his knee surgery when he purchased tickets last Sunday night at $300 apiece for him and his family. Crouse had to stop a few times on his way to his seats, but he made it — and he promises he'll be back again in the same seats Monday night when Kentucky plays for its first championship in 14 years.
Said wife Michelle, "He wouldn't miss it for anything."
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