People tuning in from around the nation might see expanses of empty seats at Friday's first NCAA tournament game at CenturyLink Center and think Omaha isn't crazy for March Madness.
The opposite would be true.
That first game, Florida-Virginia, is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. — a half-hour after the hometown Creighton Bluejays tip off against Alabama in Greensboro, N.C. More than 9,000 tickets for the NCAA second- and third-round games in Omaha were sold to Creighton season ticketholders and holders of CenturyLink club seats and suites.
The scheduling put Bluejay fans with local NCAA tickets in a quandary: They can't be in two places at once. Some may sell their tickets to Friday afternoon's first session, the Florida-Virginia game and Missouri vs. Norfolk State.
Other Bluejay fans are buying different tickets and putting together trips to Greensboro to watch the Jays.
Kevin Sarver, tournament manager for the Omaha event, noted that not everyone who bought tickets for CenturyLink is a Bluejay fan. But he said he expects many Bluejay fans with tickets to repair to a sports bar or a recliner to watch the first game Friday afternoon, then go to the arena for the second.
"The arena for the Florida-Virginia game may be relatively bare, because people will be at home or wherever, somewhere festive, watching the Creighton game on TV," Sarver said. "Then they'll come down here and watch the second game."
Those who want to sell their tickets at more than face value can do so legally on the secondary ticket market, either by selling them themselves online, or through a ticket broker such as Omaha-based Ticket Express.
"Things have been very intense over the past 24 hours," Chad Carr, Ticket Express president, said Monday afternoon. "A lot of people are exploring their options. They've been calling our office, trying to see what their tickets are worth."
Face value for Session One tickets was $80 or $89. Face value for all-session tickets, for all the Friday and Sunday games, was $240 or $267.
Monday evening, Ticket Express was advertising Session One tickets for $99 up to $350 each, depending on the location of seats. The ticket broker had all-session tickets listed for $325 to $1,150. Carr said all-session tickets had sold for as much as $495 apiece.
On StubHub, Session One tickets were listed for $99 to over $400, and all-session tickets were being offered for $310 to over $1,000.
By Monday afternoon, PrimeSport, the official ticket exchange provider of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, was listing a small number of Session One tickets for $202 each, and all-session tickets for $540 each.
The CenturyLink Center will hold about 17,500 for the tournament games. The NCAA's required "constituent pre-sale" in October snapped up more than 9,000 of the tickets. About 4,000 were held back for team allotments and for sale to NCAA corporate sponsors and others. The remainder of about 3,500 were sold to the general public beginning in mid-October until they were gone. The last sold about two weeks ago, Sarver said.
"My impression was that Missouri fans and KU fans had a hunch that their teams would be here, and they were the ones buying them in the last few weeks," he said.
Carr wasn't so sure. He said people are reluctant to put their money down until they know where the teams will play.
Since Selection Sunday, when Missouri and Kansas punched tickets to Omaha, he's been hearing from a lot of Tiger and Jayhawk backers, not only from those states, but also in the Omaha area.
"There are a lot of displaced alumni who went to school in Columbia or Lawrence who are thinking, I need to see this game that's right in my backyard," Carr said.
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