The resale market for Super Bowl XLV tickets is quietly bubbling two months ahead of the game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
With virtually no tickets available at face value -- which started at $800 -- many are moving at far higher prices on the National Football League's Ticket Exchange and outlets such as StubHub and eBay.
StubHub says tickets are averaging $2,900, hundreds of dollars more than the final averages for the two most recent Super Bowls. But a spokeswoman says the company expects prices to drop when more tickets become available closer to the game.
There are few opportunities to buy tickets directly from the NFL. The league says its 5,000 NFL On Location packages, which combine tickets with game-day amenities, are almost 90 percent sold out. Ticket-only sales aren't available.
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The North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee had planned to sell 300 tickets to the public but offered them first to committee members and other volunteers, who snapped them all up.
It's "buyer beware" if you're getting tickets anywhere but from the NFL, league officials warn.
The league, which controls all tickets, hasn't distributed them yet, and even sellers who know they're in line to receive tickets don't have seat assignments. Ticket offers are being described only by stadium zones.
NFL officials say buyers are taking a risk even if they deal with StubHub, although the firm says it's offering a money-back guarantee and will operate a customer service center at Rangers Youth Ballpark near the stadium.
"What's amusing to me is that we haven't even distributed tickets, yet you will start seeing offers on eBay and StubHub months and months ahead of the Super Bowl," said Frank Supovitz, senior vice president of events for the NFL. "I see this every year, and I kind of smile."
StubHub begs to differ, saying it deals only with "trusted" sellers who have reliably filled orders before.
"There's no incentive for [StubHub] sellers to produce bad tickets, because they won't get paid out at the end of the day," said Joellen Ferrer, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco company. "There is legitimacy to the secondary market as long you have a guarantee and safeguards."
If problems pop up, Ferrer said, StubHub works to connect the ticket buyer to another seller with a similar ticket. If that doesn't work, StubHub will provide a refund, she said.
"Problems are rare," she said. "There's too many checkpoints."
Where do they all go?
Just who is selling tickets remains a big question.
Of the Super Bowl's 90,000-plus tickets, 35 percent will be distributed to the two participating teams. Five percent will go to the host team -- the Dallas Cowboys, still mathematically alive in the playoff race -- and 34.8 percent will go to the other 29 NFL teams.
The NFL gets the remaining 25.2 percent.
What happens to all those tickets?
The participating teams typically distribute the bulk through lotteries to their season-ticket holders, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. He pointed out that last year's NFC participant, the New Orleans Saints, had 70,000 season-ticket holders and received 17.5 percent of the 72,000 tickets available for the game.
"If we could build a stadium for 300,000, we still wouldn't come close to meeting demand," he said.
Other teams may distribute tickets to season-ticket holders and partners. The Cowboys will distribute its tickets to players, staff members and sponsors, team spokesman Brett Daniels said. "Our ticket allocation is fairly limited," he said.
The NFL uses its tickets for media, charitable partners, network partners and a small public lottery earlier this year, McCarthy said. It also distributed 1,250 tickets to the host committee, which doled out three-quarters of them in sponsorship packages before selling the rest to committee members and volunteers.
The league started taking deposits on its NFL On Location packages last year, said Dave Wintergrass, the league's senior director of events, who created the program.
The league, which launched the program in 2006 when it moved 900 packages for the Super Bowl in Detroit, has sold out the premium red and white packages, leaving six levels of the blue package, Wintergrass said.
Blue packages, ranging from $2,399 to $2,999, include a seat in the 300-400 end zone section, or 300 corner. Prices are higher for fans who want a hotel room. Buyers get a three-hour pregame spread and open bar at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The package also includes player appearances, a $50 merchandise coupon, ticket lanyard, express security entrances and access to preferred parking, for which there is a charge.
The NFL On Location packages should sell out "as we move through the playoffs," Supovitz said. "The price point of the blue packages are starting to approximate what many people will pay just for a game ticket from a broker."
The price is rising
As for the NFL Ticket Exchange, McCarthy said it's too early to discern sales trends.
On Thursday, the exchange, at www.ticketexchangebyticketmaster.com, had 201 ticket offers, from $2,154 for upper end zone to $6,859 for seats between the 25-and 50-yard lines.
StubHub had 643 tickets available, from $1,969 in the upper end zone to $9,795.
Ticket sales have ranged between $1,960 and $7,645, with Illinois, California, New Jersey, New York and Florida producing the most buyers so far, Ferrer said.
The average sales price for this year's game, in Miami, was $2,386, she said. The average for last year's game, in Tampa, Fla., was $2,402.
"While prices seem very high" for the Arlington game, "the market hasn't exactly set yet," the StubHub spokeswoman added.