By Michael Rand
We received an update about an hour ago indicating there are still 14,000 tickets remaining for Sunday’s playoff game between the Vikings and Eagles. While the economy surely isn’t helping, the press release sent by the Vikings made it sound as though tough times aren’t exactly crushing the other three home venues. At least that’s how we read things from the release:
Minnesota Vikings fans rallied on Monday to purchase more than 6,000 tickets to the NFC Wild Card Playoff matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday, January 4, at 3:30 p.m. The NFL playoffs open this weekend with host teams Arizona, Miami and San Diego all receiving fan support to sell remaining tickets for their games. “Our fans have a proud tradition of giving us a strong home field advantage,” said Steve LaCroix, Vikings Vice President of Sales and Marketing/Chief Marketing Officer. “We still have a long way to go, but we are confident our fans will join together and exceed the support teams are enjoying in other NFL cities facing the same challenges.”
Indeed, the Vikings had 20,000 available as of around this time yesterday. That means they sold 6,000 or so in the past 24 hours. The Dolphins sold out by mid-day Monday — burning through about 25,000 available tickets in a flash. San Diego sold 17,000 tickets Monday, according to the team. Ticket sales were not as brisk in Arizona, but the club reported having about 8,000 left to sell at the end of Monday.
That leads us to one of two conclusions: 1) Minnesotans, known to be frugal, are pinching pennies more than their warm-weather brethren. OR 2) Despite a 10-6 record, a division title and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs (and with victories over the top two seeds during the regular season, regardless of what you think of the circumstances), a great amount of fan apathy exists with this team.
On the first point: Plenty of $30 tickets (the cheapest option) remain. But it’s not just the nosebleed seats that are available Sunday.
A quick Ticketmaster search found that one cannot get a pair of the most expensive $160 seats. [Update: Thanks to Hockeydad, who noted in the comments that he was able to find a pair of $160 tickets. We tried a couple times earlier before putting up this post but had no success. A few minutes ago, after seeing his comment, we tried again and we were, indeed, able to find two tickets in Section 134, Row 12. In fact, in a different row we could find 10 such tickets together. Not sure what the glitch was earlier, but thanks to Hockeydad for setting things straight.] But the next-priciest tickets, at $120, are readily available. In fact, just for fun we kept increasing the number at that price we could find together. We got all the way to 16 tickets in the same row — Section 105, Row 36, in the corner of the end zone. That would run someone about $2K, but still. That’s a lot of prime tickets, and an indication that even people buying tickets aren’t always going for the best available seats.
On the second point: The rabid-ness of fans certainly doesn’t match 1998 or even 2000. Not even close. Folks are still skeptical about Brad Childress and still lukewarm about the brand of football being offered. But there is enough chatter about the team, and enough people watching on TV, to suggest that only part of it is attributable to the team itself. Part of it, we’re guessing, is that people don’t enjoy going to the Metrodome — not just for the building, but for the atmosphere. It’s loud, it’s aggressive, and it can be a hassle. Why go when you can watch on TV, we’ve heard countless times.
It remains to be seen, though, whether that will be an option Sunday. We’re guessing that despite the obstacles mentioned, enough people will buy tickets by 3:30 p.m. Friday — our projected time by which the Vikings would have to sell out to avoid a blackout, factoring in the 72-hour before kickoff rule plus the 24-hour extension that will likely be granted — to avoid the first NFL playoff blackout in any market since 2002. It might take a bailout by Fox for the final few thousand, but by then it would be worth the network’s dime to not lose local ad revenue.
We’re interested to hear your thoughts on why you think tickets sales are dragging, what will ultimately happen Sunday and what this means for the Vikings in 2009 and beyond.