Chicago Cubs fans eager to score tickets to the first two games of the National League Championship Series might have been surprised had they called Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services, or visited the Tribune Co.-owned ticket brokerage a few paces away from the stadium.
That's because, since the postseason started, the brokerage has essentially closed down -- with no tickets up for sale.
The Cubs, who are also owned by the Tribune, and Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services are defendants in a class-action lawsuit, which contends that the team is violating the Illinois Ticket Scalping Act by selling its tickets at higher than face value through the ticket brokerage.
"We can't submit any more evidence, but if we could, the fact that the Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services is not selling any tickets at a time when any other brokerage would be the most active, proves that they do not serve as a real ticket broker," said Paul Bauch, who is representing Cubs fans in the lawsuit.
Tribune Company officials claim that the two entities, despite being under the same ownership, act independently of one another and the brokerage is therefore legal.
"The ticket brokerage was getting its tickets from the VIP allotment in the club and field box areas," said Jim Klenk, who is representing the brokerage and the club in the lawsuit. "During the playoffs, there is no shortage of VIP's and that of course means that Premium has no tickets to sell."
Plenty of tickets this time around are going to politicians, who are key to allowing the possible expansion of Wrigley Field's bleachers by 2,000 seats.
A week-long trial took place in late August and a Cook County Circuit Judge is expected to rule by Nov. 25.
With the Cubs trying to win their first World Series since 1908 and get to their first World Series since 1945, the markup on the secondary market is at an all-time high.
For games 1 and 2, brokers are selling a spot on a rooftop overlooking Wrigley for $500, bleacher seats are reselling for about $750 apiece, while seats behind home plate cost more than $2,000 each.
"There are tons of people buying and selling," said Max Waisvaiz of Chicago-based Gold Coast Tickets. "The recession is over in Chicago."
But the Tribune Company's brokerage is sitting out.
In 2002, Premium's first year in business, the brokerage sold 3,900 tickets to Cubs fans. This season, Premium sold about 8,000 tickets to Cubs fans. Over the two seasons, resale of tickets only represents less than .01 percent of the total attendance at Wrigley.
Bauch says that Premium can't be considered a brokerage, not only because the organization is controlled by Cubs officials, but because Premium isn't reselling the tickets. Since the tickets are taken from the VIP reserve, Premium's tickets are never actually available from the box office, unlike every other ticket purchased from a brokerage.
But Klenk says that no fans have been hurt by the Tribune Company's brokerage, especially since Premium has actually made the resale market more competitive, therefore lowering secondary prices for fans. Cubs vice president Mark McGuire, who serves on Premium's board and was formerly its president, would not comment on any Premium-related business since litigation is not resolved.
"If we win, and I expect we will, I think that many more sports teams will be doing this," Klenk said.
Bauch said that if his clients prevail, he is asking that each person who bought a ticket from Premium over the past two years would receive $100 per ticket or the difference between the marked up value and the face value of the ticket, whichever is the greater of the two sums. Bauch estimates that will cost the Tribune Company between $1.2 and $1.5 million.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org.