Ticket prices for Philadelphia pro sports teams skyrocket on open market

Martin Frank
Delaware News Journal

It took just a couple hours after Tuesday's announcement that fans will be allowed to attend Philadelphia sporting events for ticket prices to the Phillies' opening day on April 1 to appear on a reselling website for $500 and up.

The prices for games for the rest of that series against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday and Sunday, April 3 and 4, were starting in the $250 range.

But by Wednesday afternoon, tickets to those first three games were no longer available, most likely because the seats originally on the site are not for sale in the reconfigured seating areas.

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According to the rule approved by the city of Philadelphia, outdoor venues are allowed to have a capacity of 20%, which includes fans, players, coaches, staff, arena/stadium workers and media. 

Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto gives away his bats after the team's season-ending game on Sept. 29, 2019. That was the last time the Phillies played in front of a crowd at Citizens Bank Park. A limited amount of fans will be allowed in to their opener on April 1.

For the Phillies, that places a limit of 8,800 fans for a ballpark that seats around 45,000.

It will be the first time fans will be allowed at a Phillies home game since the end of the 2019 season (a limited number of fans are allowed for spring training games taking place throughout Florida and Arizona).

All of this, of course, is due to the coronavirus pandemic that began last March, delaying the start of the 2020 baseball season until late July, suspending the NBA and NHL seasons until August, and canceling the NCAA basketball tournaments.

The Phillies and the other major league teams played a shortened 60-game season in 2020 without fans.

So it's easy to see why fans will likely have to pay some kind of premium on the secondary market in order to attend games this season, at least for now. 

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"People haven’t been to a baseball game in 19 months," said John Weber, the Phillies senior vice president for ticket operations. "And so with a limited inventory – it’s only 8,800 seats – if you do want to come … I’m sure the Stubhub market and the secondary market will be strong."

That's true for the Flyers and 76ers, too. In Pennsylvania, indoor venues will be limited to 15% capacity. That means about  3,100 fans will be allowed into the Wells Fargo Center, which seats as many as 21,000 for the Sixers and 19,600 for the Flyers.

The Flyers will play their first home game in front of fans on Sunday, while the Sixers' first game will come March 14. For those fans, it will be one full year since they were allowed to attend a game.

So far, Stubhub is listing a starting price of $170 for the Flyers' game Sunday. No prices are currently listed for the Sixers home games on the website.

Both teams will open ticket sales to season-ticket holders first, with the remaining going to the general public.

At least for now, the demand is expected to outpace the supply, both in the limited number of tickets available and in the novelty of fans returning to events for the first time in a year or more.

"While events are taking place at a reduced capacity, fans are being treated to a truly novel and intimate experience that they’ll likely tell stories about for years to come," said Jessica Finn, a spokeswoman for Stubhub.

She added that will drive up the price, especially at first, on the secondary markets. But she said the prices will likely level off as the season progresses and the capacity is allowed to increase. That would be especially true in baseball, where each team plays 81 home games.

The Phillies have made only the first 19 home games (through May 6) available for purchase. Season-ticket holders have first dibs on the seats. Seats remaining for the 19 games will then go on sale to the general public on March 12.

Weber said he expects to have tickets available for the general public, but "probably not opening day." The home opener typically sells out every year.

The Phillies are not raising their ticket prices from last year, which in the past have started at around $20 for the upper levels. But the secondary ticket markets are a different story.

For example, the initial Stubhub pricing with the $550 price tag for the Phillies' opener could eventually be the case for that game. That's because opening day is typically the most anticipated game of the season. That is especially true this season because fans have not been in attendance at a Phillies game since Sept. 29, 2019. 

"Obviously, we’re just getting the information out there now," Weber said. "We didn’t know how many tickets we'd have until the city gave us a number two days ago."

Weber said fans will be spread out throughout the entire ballpark in pods of two, three or four people.

The same method of supply and demand will likely apply to the Sixers and Flyers. The Sixers had sold out every game in the 2019-20 season until the pandemic caused the NBA to shut down last March 11.

The season resumed 4½ months later in a bubble environment in Orlando, Florida, with the playoffs concluding in October. The 2020-21 season began at team sites in late December with varying amounts of fans allowed in, depending on the venue.

In the NBA, 20 of the 30 teams have either started allowing fans or have plans to start allowing fans to their games. 

The Flyers were averaging close to capacity before their 2019-20 season was suspended. They, too, resumed last summer in a bubble environment without fans. The 2020-21 season began in mid-January, also with varying amounts of fans allowed in, depending on the venue.

In the NHL, 16 of the 31 teams have either started allowing fans or have plans to do so. Several MLB teams are planning to have fans in the stands for their home openers.

Weber, for one, couldn't be happier.

"It’s like Christmas tenfold," Weber said. "Not having fans in the ballpark for the last 18 months has been hard on everybody from the players to the fans to the workers. So to be able to start the process is a great feeling."

Weber added that at some point in April, tickets for the remaining 62 home games will go on sale.

By that point, the capacity could be increased if COVID-19 cases continue to go down as more and more people get the vaccine. Or the capacity could decrease if cases start rising again.

Either way, while many fans will be eager to return, some might not feel comfortable.

"Everybody has their own comfort level, which is totally understandable," Weber said. "But I think just what’s happened in the last month, and the direction that we’re going, that people are getting more and more excited, and that they’re more willing to get out and do things.

"Obviously, what we’ve all gone through the past year is hopefully something we’ll never have to do again. And hopefully, down the road, we’ll have more than 8,800 tickets. It’s a challenge, but the whole organization is up for it, and we’re excited."

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.