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Demand for Tickets Is Soaring

Relatively small seating capacity of stadiums makes the search even harder. Some agencies charging more than $5,000 for a ticket.

October 18, 2002|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

The big black-and-orange-clad crowd of San Francisco Giant fans seeking World Series tickets Wednesday at Pacific Bell Park pleased Russ Stanley, the club's vice president of ticketing.

"The only problem," Stanley said minutes after the Giants made tickets available to the public, "is that we really can't meet this kind of demand."

That's great news for ticket brokers -- and bad news for fans hoping to find tickets at a reasonable price.

Tickets for the Giant-Angel World Series are among the most coveted in the event's history, baseball officials and brokers said, with some agencies charging more than $5,000 for seats listed from $110 to $175. They've found an eager market, capitalizing on excitement about the all-California matchup and relatively low ticket availability in San Francisco and Anaheim.

The buzz thrills baseball, but it causes concern too. Major League Baseball is increasing efforts to protect fans from being duped by ticket scalpers. Police in Anaheim and San Francisco are on alert and expect to be busy.

There aren't enough World Series tickets for everyone who wants them, driving up prices and stirring action off the field.

"We realize we're dealing with a unique situation," said Pat Courtney, a spokesman for the commissioner's office. "The Angels have never been in the World Series and the Giants haven't gone for such a long time [1989].

"Also, the size of the venues, with both of the ballparks seating in the 40,000-plus range, and the excitement surrounding both of the teams has a lot to do with what you're seeing with the tickets. We're anticipating a very coveted ticket."

How hot are tickets?

Brokers in Los Angeles and Orange County said their phones began ringing Sunday minutes after the Angels clinched the American League championship with a 13-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Edison Field. As of Thursday night, brokers were quoting prices of $440 to $4,500 for the first two games in Anaheim and $600 to $5,000 for the middle games in San Francisco.

Many brokers declined to be interviewed, saying they were fearful of media criticism because of ticket prices. Two major Los Angeles-based brokers spoke on the condition they would not be identified by name.

"I would say this is the hottest ticket since the Subway Series," said a longtime broker, referring to the 2000 World Series between the New York Yankees and New York Mets. "That was the best; you could get $7,500 for the first few rows at Yankee Stadium.

"This isn't quite as big, but it's good because there's such a phenomenon with the Angels right now. Everyone is on the bandwagon. They're excited. There's so much energy in the ballpark and they haven't been there before. That's why there's so much demand. People just want to be there."

The commissioner's office doesn't make it easy on fans, controlling about 11,000 World Series tickets for each game, distributing them to corporate partners, the 28 other teams, players and media members. Season-ticket holders of participating teams get the next crack, sometimes through a lottery system, leaving the public to fight for what's left.

"You would like to get as many tickets as possible out to the general public," Courtney said, "but you have to be fair to the season-ticker holders because they're the ones who support the sport. It's tough."

Edison Field seats 45,030 and the Angels have a season-ticket base of 13,000, excluding partial season packages. After the league office took its cut, season-ticket holders bought postseason tickets in August and the Angels fulfilled various commitments, the club had about "9,000 to 10,000 tickets for sale for each game," said Kevin Uhlich, senior vice president of business operations.

Ticket brokers were ready to fill the void.

"Ticket prices are always based on supply and demand and there's a smaller supply this year because of the stadiums," said a broker with several offices in Los Angeles. "There's always going to be a few guys asking for a little more or a little less, but you can probably get tickets for [Game 1 on Saturday] for between $350 to $2,500. That's the solid market right now."

Buying from ticket scalpers on the day of games can be a less expensive, though riskier, alternative. Scalpers, trying to move tickets moments before games begin, generally seek lower prices than brokers, but the buyer should beware, said Kevin Hallinan, baseball's executive director of security.

"Counterfeiting is something we're always concerned about," he said. "We're working very closely with law enforcement officials and the company that produces our tickets to make sure that we indeed have safeguards in there that are going to prevent counterfeiting of the World Series tickets."

The commissioner's office plans to have machines outside Edison Field and Pacific Bell Park to authenticate tickets.

"So if a fan is in indeed contemplating buying tickets, he might suggest to the person he's buying them from, 'Hey, I'll see you at that ballpark and we'll run the tickets through the machine to make sure that they're good,' " Hallinan said. "You just insert the tickets and get a red or green light. It's really that simple. Hopefully it will help because we know that [scalping] does happen."

Reselling tickets on stadium property is a misdemeanor in California, carrying a maximum punishment of up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. An Anaheim municipal code prohibiting solicitation in streets also carries a fine of $250.

"Let's just say if you have tickets and you want to sell them, you'd better do it on a public sidewalk somewhere off the property," Anaheim Police Sgt. Rick Martinez said. "It's a law our department does enforce regularly, and especially with the World Series we are going to be out there."

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