Fans empty pockets for tickets

Tim Eggerding

Tim Eggerding

By Agnes Jasinski

Students looking to buy Illini basketball tickets on the University’s Web site will see the words “SOLD OUT” in large red block letters for the remainder of the season. The team is currently on its second-longest winning streak in its 100-year history, forcing fans to look for tickets elsewhere, often at high prices.

“Anyone who has them now wouldn’t sell them,” said Lindsay Omolecki, a senior in LAS, on the difficulty in attending games this season.

Omolecki went the eBay route for the Penn State game on Jan. 12, buying a pair of tickets for $100 for her father and brother in the C-section. She found a ticket for herself outside the stadium from a scalper for $40.

“They weren’t good tickets,” she said. “But I’d never been to a game.”

Omolecki said the purchase was worth it, and lucked out with a last-minute pair of tickets in the student C-section for $50 to last night’s game. She used the “buy it now” option this time, no bidding required.

Pricey tickets are good for business and ticket exchange sites, but bad for students used to prices they can afford.

“People that are selling them are making a huge profit,” said Chris Owens, co-chair of the Orange Krush cheering section and sophomore in business. “When you’re number one in the country… everyone wants to see their team play.”

Owens said he’s worried that ticket offices will catch on to the large profits made by students and groups buying and reselling blocks of tickets. Bidding at online ticket exchanges such as stubhub.com and eBay have posted tickets at over $300 for season games in the C-section at Assembly Hall. A seller on eBay, for example, has received 17 bids on a pair of C-section tickets to the Feb. 12 game against Wisconsin, with over a week to go. The asking price so far has reached $355, with a limit set at $398 thanks to Illinois State Law, which limits resale ticket prices based on how much the seller bought the tickets for originally.

“Maybe they’d buy them if they had an overabundance of money or something,” Owens said. “It’s not good … tickets are low for a reason.”

Tickets for away games and the upcoming Big Ten tournament at the United Center aren’t much cheaper, either, with tickets for the tournament especially going for over $400 dollars on bidding sites.

“The United Center games sold out for the first year in a long time,” Owens said.

For the 22,000 alums in Champaign County, online bidding sites may be the way to go to be able to attend a much talked about, sold-out game. But some still find it difficult to pay that much over face value, whether they see themselves as die-hard fans or not.

“I’d rather watch it on my TV,” said alumna Heather Miller. “I have a family, other needs … students can’t afford those either. Maybe some students have more money than us parents.”

Miller is one of several alums co-hosting nationwide Gamewatches for alums in their area that are either not in Champaign, or want a place to watch games with a fun environment without shelling out the money for a pair of expensive tickets. Although she went to the game last night thanks to a good friend, Miller said she wouldn’t pay more than $50 for a ticket to see the Illini. The Gamewatch she’s helping with is on Feb. 19 in the Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland Community College. The event will also include door prizes, lunch, a raffle and games for children during halftime and commercial breaks.

“A winning season is definitely helping attendance,” Miller said.

A winning season has also made the Gamewatches more popular, with alums from Sarasota, Fla., to Louisville, Ky., hosting broadcasts.

Although tickets are hard to find for those on a budget, students and alums would agree that the atmosphere at the games is more exciting than it’s been in a long time.

“There’s a whole different level of excitement this year,” Owens said. “Every game is just dominated by Illini fans. It’s a great environment.”