Brokers, scalpers begin making up lost ground on ticket sales

  • Article by: RON HAGGSTROM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2011 - 8:54 AM

A Twins slow start meant bargains for ticket buyers, but the team's recent surge has raised demand -- and prices -- for the second half. Summary.

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Fans reached for a ball as they watched batting practice earlier this month at Target Field. As the weather has heated up, so has demand for Twins tickets.

Photo: Schneider, Renee Jones, Star Tribune

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For ticket brokers and scalpers with a vested interest in the Twins, the first two months of the 2011 season were dismal.

The defending American League Central champs struggled out of the gate with a mixture of poor play and injuries. Throw in some inclement weather and it was the "perfect storm" according to Michael Nowakowski, one of the owners of Ticket King, an online ticket broker.

"The beginning of this year was awful," Nowakowski said. "When all that happens at the same time, you're not going to be able to sell a ticket."

But as the second half of the season got underway Thursday night against the Kansas City Royals, the mood had brightened.

Glenn Lehrman, a representative from the online marketplace StubHub, said the company has seen "a 20 percent rise in ticket volume" for Twins games coinciding with the hot streak.

Added Nowakowski: "We have recently been selling tickets just below the pace where we were last year. It's not like a faucet turned on, though. It's been a slow increase."

With Friday's loss, the Twins are 25-12 since starting the year 17-37.

"If they had not turned it around, it would have been a long year for people in my industry," Nowakowksi said. "It was terrible. You couldn't sell [tickets] for half of the face value. ... We've seen a steady uptick in volume since the beginning of June, coinciding with the Twins turning things around."

That sentiment was echoed on the streets near Target Field.

As he negotiated a deal Thursday, one scalper said he was selling $60 tickets for $5 early in the season. "There was an abundance of tickets on the street. It was bad," he said. But scalpers were getting as much as $35 more than face value per ticket for the first game following the All-Star break. One working near Kieran's Irish Pub said he and others have to "make up a lot of ground from the first two months of the season."

Hannah Wickberg of Minneapolis was able to purchase six tickets together as Francisco Liriano was about to deliver the opening pitch Thursday. Her group paid $30 apiece for $14 face value tickets.

"Our scalper told us the tickets were getting hotter, and we wanted six together," Wickberg said. "I thought we did good."

Bobby Lea of St. Paul didn't echo Wickberg's thoughts after trading four tickets for Friday for three cheaper seats Thursday.

"I don't like dealing with those guys," Lea said. "Dollar for dollar, I got hosed."

He made the purchase because he had visitors in town. Lea received tickets in the Legends Club while giving up seats in Section 119.

Dan Charriere of Manitoba wavered on a deal for two $36 tickets. He settled on paying $42.50 apiece after negotiations started at $50.

"I tried to get him down to $40, but he wouldn't go for that," Charriere said. "I guess the recession is over."

Nowakowski said he expects tickets to remain a hot item in the near future. Following the Kansas City series, the Twins' next five home series are against Cleveland, Detroit, the Chicago White Sox, Boston and the New York Yankees.

"If they are within five games going into the Detroit series," Nowakowski said, "the ticket demand will be crazy. ... Minnesota fans are extraordinary when teams are winning."

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