Super Bowl LV could be most expensive – and COVID-tested – NFL ticket in history

Despite the United States smashing COVID-19 infection records on nearly a daily basis, the NFL remains undeterred in its plans to host as many fans as it safely can in February’s Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida. Projecting what that will look like in November is a near impossibility, although the current grid appears to be set somewhere between 10,000-20,000 fans spread throughout Raymond James Stadium. But as cloudy as the crystal ball of attendance has become, it’s nothing compared to the total darkness of a Super Bowl ticket market that is virtually nonexistent.

Aside from a handful of suites and full-service “fan experience” packages the NFL and its partners are selling, the unknowns shrouding single tickets have wreaked havoc on a typically robust secondary market for Florida Super Bowls.

“Pre-sales don’t exist because nobody has any clue how to price the market — because nobody knows if there will be a market,” one high-end ticket broker told Yahoo Sports this week. “I honestly couldn’t tell you if I’ll have two tickets, two hundred tickets or two thousand. … I don’t know if all the players will be getting them this year [as part of their agreement with the NFL] or what the numbers of team tickets will be or corporate [NFL] partners or anything else. But I do think that if the seats are limited to 10,000 or 12,000 or whatever that number is, even with how things are [with COVID], so few of those will get to the [secondary] market that prices will be higher than anything we’ve had. Because if it’s 10,000, the vast majority of the capacity will go to sponsors and teams and the networks and people like that.

“In an average season, 15,000 tickets evaporate before you even get close to fans who want to travel to a game.”

The broker paused for a moment and chuckled, adding a shrugging thought: “Or maybe nobody will want to go at all because all this [expletive] could still be just like it is right now. Maybe nobody will even want to pay average Super Bowl ticket prices if it won’t be the same experience. Or [President-elect] Joe Biden decides the day after the inauguration that we’re not doing sports events for a couple months.

“Who really knows? You see what I mean? It’s impossible to call at this point.”

Socially distanced fans look on from the lower bowl at AT&T Stadium at the Cowboys-Falcons game in September. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Socially distanced fans look on from the lower bowl at AT&T Stadium at the Cowboys-Falcons game in September. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Regular-season NFL ticket prices are high. Will Super Bowl follow suit?

According to industry database TicketIQ, the limited capacity around the league this season has pushed the average secondary market prices for NFL games 53 percent higher than it was last season. The significantly few fans going to NFL games have been willing to pay significantly more money for the tickets that have gone through a very limited spectrum of brokers. With that data in mind, TicketIQ is theorizing that a similar jump could be in line for Super Bowl tickets given the drastic reduction in availability.

From TicketIQ:

“If the Super Bowl ticket market experiences the same sort of trends [as other limited capacity games this season] that could push the cheapest ticket to $10,102, nearly $3,500 more than last year’s get-in price for Super Bowl LIV, and the most expensive get-in price we’ve tracked for the big game. With an increase of 53-percent, the average list price would jump to $12,858 and easily be the most expensive Super Bowl since 2010. The most expensive [Super Bowl] we’ve tracked so far was the 2015 game, which had an average list price of $9,723.”

Other brokers who spoke with Yahoo Sports expressed agreement with the general theory that the lessened capacity could create a Super Bowl ticket desert, where there is nothing to hit the open market in 2020. But some added the typical caveats that always factor into prices as the game approaches, from which two franchises advance, to what the weather will look like in the final week before the game, to whether Tampa and the NFL can pull off a Super Bowl entertainment environment in the middle of a pandemic.

As one mid-level broker said, “If there isn’t a party, that hurts a lot. You want to sell people on being out and eating and drinking and going to the beach. Part of the attraction will hinge on that. Nobody is going to pay a premium to go sit in a hotel.”

Vaccine could dramatically alter outlook for NFL, Super Bowl

Not that the NFL isn’t trying to paint a picture of normalcy. The league has yet to send any signals of a significantly toned down Super Bowl — although it isn’t suggesting it will be a normal event, either. A significant part of that opaque nature comes from the same thing that has made attending any game a crapshoot this season.

The NFL has no idea what the COVID outlook will be in February.

This month has been a stark reminder of that, as some teams have begun altering the number of fans allowed due to the latest spiraling virus infections. The latest vaccine outlooks from Pfizer and Moderna could dramatically impact that, particularly considering the NFL has shown a willingness to pay through the teeth for COVID testing. There’s no telling what the league would be willing to shell out to get a larger capacity Super Bowl crowd if there are massive leaps in testing or even vaccines in the next three months.

While commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t go quite that far in his recent address about the league’s Super Bowl outlook, he did suggest the NFL is moving forward with the same plan it has had since the season started: to fit everything in despite all the headwinds with COVID.

“Our objective is for all teams to safely and responsibly complete the regular season within our 17-week schedule — and have a full postseason, culminating with the Super Bowl with fans in the stands on February 7 in Tampa,” Goodell said last week. “We are committed to completing the season as scheduled.”

The NFL is not just keeping a close eye on potentially expanding the number of fans attending Super Bowl LV, but also looking at the possibility of testing those fans the same way it aggressively tests teams, a league source who spoke with Yahoo Sports said Monday. That could mean every single ticket comes along with a last-minute COVID swab, requiring fans to test negative to get into the event. Or if there are advances in testing over the next three months (which there will likely be), the league could lean into something faster than what is currently on the market. That’s something Goodell appeared to hint at last week.

“If there are potential opportunities, whether there are vaccines, whether there are additional testing [methods] that we think would help make our fans attending the game safer, we are certainly considering that and we are actively considering that,” Goodell said. “But our intent is to have as many fans at the Super Bowl as can be done safely.”

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