Kentucky woes lead to SEC ticket decline

As the SEC tournament got under way last night, many across the country noted the sparse attendance in Bridgestone Arena. Given that the games featured the four lowest seeds in the tournament, you might not think there’s cause for concern. That is until you see the prices on the secondary market for the entire tournament.

StubHub measured the median price both the day before the SEC tournament began last year and the day before this year’s tournament and found a staggering 42 percent decline in price. Last year’s tournament featured two top-25 teams, Kentucky and Florida, with Mississippi State and Vanderbilt also receiving votes. This year, only Florida is ranked in the top 25 in the AP poll, although reigning national champion Kentucky did receive some votes.

“In most cases, team performance is the best indicator of sales,” said StubHub head of U.S. communications Alison Salcedo.

Perhaps the absence of Kentucky from the top 25, and the doubt as to whether the Wildcats will even make it into the NCAA tournament without a strong SEC tournament showing, is most damaging for the SEC. StubHub says 47 percent of all sales to SEC tournament games last year were to fans living in the state of Kentucky. This year that number is down to 39 percent.

The SEC isn’t the only conference tournament seeing down numbers from last year, according to StubHub. The median price to the ACC tournament is down 26 percent from last year. Despite the overall dip, competitor Razorgator says the average ticket price of $117 for the ACC championship is the second highest of any conference behind the Big East at $233.

Notwithstanding the high for the championship, the Big East is seeing an 18 percent decline in median price on StubHub, despite it being the last hurrah for the conference as we know it. TiqIQ says average prices are up by 128 percent over last year for the first round, however, and 40 percent for the second round. Only the final rounds are down, with the semifinals down 9 percent and the championship down 2 percent. With so many teams in contention, fans may be waiting longer to buy championship tickets until they know their team will be in the game.

“I'd say that Big East tickets are very volatile based on teams advancing and playing,” said Chris Matcovich, vice president of data and communications for TiqIQ. “New York has large groups of alums from many of these schools. For instance I see prices jumping if Georgetown, Syracuse and Villanova all make it to the semifinals. It’s very much wait and see.”

Two conferences are seeing some good early returns with median prices, according to StubHub. The Pac-12, playing its first year in Las Vegas, saw a 5 percent increase in median ticket prices the day before this year’s tournament compared to the same day last year. The Atlantic 10, which last year played the opening round on campuses before moving to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., has also seen a bump of 10 percent in median price with its move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.