On my 6 a.m. flight from New York to Dallas on Thursday morning, I was seated next to an orange-tinted young woman with attributes Charlie Sheen would be more than just fond of.
"I’m flying down for P. Diddy’s party tomorrow night," she opened with, as the Packers fan in a crusty, old Starter jacket an aisle over stared at her for about seven minutes without blinking.
"Oh yeah? That should be fun," I stammered as some sort of response, half-asleep and half-not-quite-sure what the proper response to that statement should be.
"Yeah, and then I’m going to the Super Bowl on Sunday. I think the guy I’m going with paid something like $30,000 for tickets. I hardly know him, but I figured, why not? You only live once. Sometimes you just have to get on the plane and go."
Welcome to Super Bowl XLV, folks, where no cost is too exorbitant and no ice storm too violent to keep the orange-tinted and the football-obsessed away.
Yes, Jerry Jones has gone all out this year, and he’s doing his very best to make sure just about every square foot of his new amusement park stadium is being utilized for Sunday’s game.
The Super Bowl attendance record was set in 1980 at Super Bowl XIV, when 103,985 fans showed up at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. 103,985? C’mon. That’s nothing. Jones hopes to pack 105,000 into his new playground on Sunday. From the looks of it now, he’ll do that with ease.
An estimated 2,000 people have been working around the clock since early January to expand and maximize Cowboys Stadium for this weekend’s events.
"We’re going to try to get as many people in to see the Super Bowl as we can," said Bill McConnell, the Director of Event Operations for the NFL, earlier this week.
The first move was adding 15,000 additional seats over the end-zone plazas, areas that were not in play during the Cowboys’ regular-season games. Next came the 500 standing-room-only tickets — some with terrible sight lines — that sold out almost immediately. Oh, and then there were the 5,000 or so tickets for spots outside the stadium that were sold, dubbed as a "party zone" where fans can watch the action on one of two giant TV screens — but not see the actual field.
Earlier this week, it was announced that there are an estimated 300 "stairwell standing" tickets for sale, too. Arlington city fire officials signed off on the plan, and the tickets sold out almost immediately.
How much does it cost to have the right to stand in a stairwell for four hours on Sunday?
They were going for about $350 face value, but in a quick eBay search, they appear to be getting hocked for $3,500 on the secondary market.
Ah, the secondary market. The roads in Dallas may be icy, but that place is on fire this week.
"Super Bowl XLV sales on StubHub have surpassed all previous Super Bowls and already ranks No. 2 all time as the top-selling event in our company’s history, trailing just this year’s BCS title game," Joellen Ferrer, the public relations manager at StubHub, said Thursday. "Tickets are moving quickly, and there are now roughly 1,000 tickets available. After dipping a bit in cost after the conference championship games, the prices have increased again this week, with get-ins starting at $2,700 per ticket."
As of Thursday, StubHub had tickets listed from $2,500-$295,000.
$295,000 to watch a football game? Well, naïve readers, those seats are for The Hall of Fame Suite. Whatever that is.
My, how times have changed.
"Barely half the stadium was filled at Super Bowl I. And it wasn’t ‘super,’ by any means, I’ll tell you that," said Larry Jacobson, one of the four living NFL fans who have attended every Super Bowl. "The game was a blowout, the halftime show was a college marching band and the pregame festivities featured two men in jet-packs. The tickets to that game cost me $12, and all I had to do was write a letter to the league office asking for a pair. I did just that, and then booked two plane tickets from San Francisco to Los Angeles that ended up costing $13.50 per a person, round trip. I think I rented a car for $8, too. All told, it was less than a $100 weekend."
Jacobson’s fellow "Never Miss a Super Bowl Club" member Tom Henschel adds, "I still have every ticket stub. Super Bowl XVIII, the first one in Tampa Bay (in 1984), still only cost $40 a ticket."
Those were the days.
These days? An $8,000 package price is considered a can’t-miss bargain.
That’s exactly the sum Guy Berkebile, a die-hard Steelers fan from Somerset, Pa., ponied up two weeks ago on the luxury auction site Jetsetter, a part of online retailer Gilt Groupe. In addition to two tickets to the game, the $8,000 package included access to the Maxim party Saturday night and three nights at the swanky Intercontinental Hotel.
"I received the email offering the package from Gilt Groupe on the Sunday evening after the AFC Championship Game. I’m a lifelong Steelers fan and have always wanted to see them play in a Super Bowl, but I didn’t click ‘purchase’ right away because of the price," Berkebile explained. "So I decided to sleep on it for an evening. Then, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought ‘I don’t know when the Steelers may make it back to the Super Bowl’, immediately got of bed, and said ‘What the heck.’ However, by that point the package was already sold out. I was put on a wait list.
"Tuesday morning, I got an email saying some other guy had dropped out and we were in. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be able to purchase tickets without paying some sort of crazy, outrageous price. This package was offered. I went online to check ticket prices and found the price they were asking for actually wasn’t really all that out of line. I get in Friday. I can’t wait."
With hotels at a premium, entrepreneurial North Texas residents have been renting their homes out to the thousands of visitors flocking to Texas for the Super Bowl since July. On craigslist.com, there are one-bedroom homes in Arlington available for $500 a night. One woman at the Dallas-Love International Airport baggage claim on Thursday said she had already rented out her driveway for Sunday’s game for $60 to a pack of Steelers fans traveling from Pennsylvania. She found them online. Naturally.
There are an estimated 300,000 people flocking into town this week. According to Jeff Mosier of The Dallas Morning News, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that visitors will shell out a Super Bowl-record $202 million this year. Local businesses are reaping the benefits, and so are the bars and restaurants. The town is filled with Packers and Steelers fans that don’t even have tickets to the game — they’re just here to party, wear cheeseheads and waive some Terrible Towels.
Jared Cooper, the CEO of SportsPowerWeekends notes, "There’s plenty of stuff to do down here without having to pay an arm and a leg. If you’re a fan of either team or just a fan of a good time, the energy’s off the charts. Check out J. Gilligan’s Bar, just a mile from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. They’re having their Big Bowl Block & Tent Party on game day with screens inside and out of a heated tent and music before and after the game. That’ll be a blast. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to have a great Super Bowl experience."
And that’s a good thing. Because, though this may be the elephant in the room this week, the average 2010 household incomes in Green Bay and Pittsburgh are $40,857 and $37,461, respectively.
Then again, invites to a P. Diddy party don’t come around too often.
Sometimes, you need to just get on the plane and go.