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Super Bowl ticket market hinges on Vikings while most brokers don’t want Patriots

Charles Robinson
NFL columnist

With the city of Minneapolis expected to be skating on the edge of freezing temperatures for Super Bowl LII, the Minnesota Vikings have become the focal interest of ticket brokers who are already white-knuckling the potential sales of this year’s NFL title game. As for the defending champion New England Patriots, they aren’t a remote rooting priority for brokers, who would favor a matchup between the Vikings and any number of AFC teams not led by Tom Brady.

Essentially, ticket brokers are falling into two camps, and both orbit the Vikings. Either they’re selling title game tickets in the next month, hoping a Vikings Super Bowl appearance drives prices through the roof. Or they’ve pre-sold tickets over the past 11 months and are hoping to fill orders when bad weather and a Vikings playoff loss crush local demand.

“Right now the Vikings are everything,” one mid-level broker said this week. “Either you own tickets and are waiting for the Vikings to make it [into the Super Bowl] and drive up demand – or you don’t own tickets but you [pre-sold packages] and you need the Vikings out of it so things bottom out and you fill orders cheaply.”

The Vikings haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 1977. That could change with two wins this month. (AP)

The Patriots are a favorite to make their 10th Super Bowl appearance, but almost no broker wants to see them. It’s largely because New England has been there and won so many times (five), there’s far less incentive for the fan base to make a trek to a cold Minneapolis. As one broker put it, “They’ve been there so many times and most NFL fans – if they’re not Patriots fans – they hate the Patriots and they hate Tom Brady. So they’re almost repelling as much as they’re drawing people in.”

The college football national championship game is already providing a snapshot of what a starved home fan base might do for Super Bowl ticket prices, and brokers are taking notice. With the Georgia Bulldogs advancing to the title game in Atlanta against Alabama, the roof has blown off ticket prices and some brokers are raking in profits. Conversely, brokers who “shorted” the ticket market by pre-selling hundreds of title game tickets months ago for as little as $1,500 apiece are preparing to book staggering losses as they scramble to fill orders while buying single tickets at $3,000 or more. Multiply a $1,000-$2,000 loss per ticket by hundreds of tickets and you see how panic can set in.

“If you shorted that [national title] game, you might want to move to South America,” one broker cracked.

Likewise, a Vikings Super Bowl appearance could give brokers who sold tickets at $3,000 apiece in previous months even bigger losses than the ones some brokers are facing in Atlanta this week.

How crazy could prices get? The “get-in” price for the cheapest tickets are currently hovering around $3,100 on SubHub. Some brokers say that price could double if the Vikings land in the Super Bowl.

“You could still gamble on it right now if you wanted to,” another mid-level broker said. “Depending on the volume you want to take on, you could probably buy some big blocks of tickets and get the price down to $2,700 [per ticket] or lower. … The Vikings have a good shot. They make it in and three weeks from now you could be flipping those same tickets for $5,000 apiece – even in bad weather.”

The weather angle continues to be notable, largely because it is expected to put a damper on the massive corporate events that often revolve around tailgating or parties in outdoor spaces. That’s a tougher sell in a frigid Minneapolis and is expected to lead to fewer last-minute trips or travel package splurges.

“It’s not Miami of the Midwest,” one broker said with a laugh. “If [brokers] could, we’d have every Super Bowl in Miami or New Orleans or Las Vegas. Those [cities] will bail you out a little bit if the market is flat. People will say, ‘Screw it, why not? Let’s go gamble or hit some beach.’ No offense to Minneapolis – I’m sure it’s lovely – but nobody is going there on a light impulse in February, you know?”

U.S. Bank Stadium will host Super Bowl LII in February. (AP)

Added another broker in a bit of popular weather-related snark, “I’m sure the NFL was hoping for global warming that didn’t happen.”

As for the rest of the playoff field beyond the Vikings and Patriots, the general consensus is as follows:

  • The teams that would be expected to sell and travel well – increasing ticket prices – would be the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Brokers seem universally uncertain that the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints crowds would travel well enough to make it a solidly selling ticket.
  • The frowning crowd belongs to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams – two teams that brokers would rather not see in the Super Bowl.
  • The recent Super Bowl losses for the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons make both franchises less attractive to brokers. Why? The thought process is fans tend to feel burned and less likely to make another big buy in the next few years after a championship loss.

With the playoffs set to start this weekend, all of those realities have set an interesting stage. One that – maybe improbably – could be owned as much by the weather and the home town team than any other Super Bowl before it.

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