The debate continues about the practice of sports teams restricting ticket sales to certain area codes/zip codes.
Most recently, the Washington Capitals tried to keep Pittsburgh Penguins fans away from playoff games at the Verizon Center by blocking customers with Pittsburgh area/zip codes from access to tickets. Penguins fans have had better luck purchasing tickets for the upcoming playoff games versus the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center, as the club did not block ticket sales for Games 3 and 4 of the playoff series.
Speaking about this practice, Kyle Prairie, director of ticket sales for the Hurricanes, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “it’s done to prevent the online ticket brokers such as stubhub.com from charging fans exorbitant prices well above the face value of tickets.” (The club does restrict sales for the Stanley Cup Final.)
Approximately 150 tickets for the Saturday’s Game 3 at the RBC Center were still available to be grabbed on StubHub by fans of both teams, with prices between $170 and $1,118 a piece as of Friday morning—indeed above the face value but, according to Sean Pate of StubHub, at prices reflecting the market.
Prairie’s argument for restricting sales is a familiar one to ticket brokers, and Pate, in a conversation with TicketNews, reiterated that StubHub itself is not a ticket broker but an online marketplace. Pate acknowledged the importance of a home advantage for sports teams but echoed a familiar rebuttal to Prairie and others by saying that restricting sales means restricting fans (i.e., Hurricanes fans living in Pittsburgh) and overlooking the fact of rival fans living in the opposing team’s city (Pittsburgh fans in Carolina).
“You’re going to be adversely affecting a lot more fans by restricting a few brokers,” Pate told TicketNews.
As for the latter, Pate mentioned that with certain teams—such as Pittsburgh’s other beloved pastime, the NFL’s Steelers—fans are so widely dispersed they often fill rival teams’ stadiums, therefore destroying any notion of a home field advantage. Football fans (especially Washington Redskins fans) might remember Steeler Nation invading FedEx field this past November. Tickets had been sold out for that game, but Steeler fans snatched them up on the secondary market.
Pate said that when teams restrict sales, they are essentially passing on business to the resale market and creating the potential for what FedEx Field saw last November. “Ironically, they’re sending would be buyers to StubHub,” he said.
Not all sports teams, however, restrict tickets. The Post-Gazette noted that the Penguins no longer restrict sales because “the club believes it has a handle on how to limit the number of tickets brokers can buy.”