Daniel Retzena shelled out roughly $225 for a face-value ticket in the rafters to Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
But Retzena wasn’t in his seat Sunday night. He was home in Shavertown, Pa.
So who was in his designated spot for tipoff? Me — and I got in the door for $147, a savings of nearly $80.
And here’s the real kicker: I feel like I overpaid.
Granted, I did better than Retzena — a 26-year-old freelance ticket broker who took a bath on his long-distance gamble. And I certainly didn’t spend as much as the Arabian sheikh who dropped at least $9,000 apiece for courtside seats.
But with a little bit more patience, I could have gotten in the door Sunday for under $100.
And, with the proper planning and a bit of luck, you can do the same for Tuesday’s Game 4 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
I started out Sunday with a loose game plan: Take the $150 allowance granted by The Miami Herald and find a way into Heat-Thunder Game 3. Why $150? That was roughly the cost of a standing-room-only pass through Ticketmaster for those lucky enough to snag one before the event officially sold out.
My editors had hoped this would be a story about haggling the price down with some street scalper in the minutes immediately before or after the game began. That’s the danger time for brokers, when anxiety builds over possibly getting stuck with expensive tickets that turn into worthless pieces of paper if unsold.
And I tried to write that story. It just didn’t want to get written.
I spent most of pregame walking some three miles around the AmericanAirlines Arena grounds, yet was not approached by a single person barking, “Need tickets?”
Disclaimer: it’s illegal (not to mention risky) to buy or sell a ticket within 1,500 feet of the venue unless done through a licensed broker. But I couldn’t even find a scalper a full half-mile away from the arena.
It seems the street hustler is yet another job eliminated by technology. Now, they either do it through professional brokers or websites such as StubHub.com.
I paid a visit to the former at roughly 6:30 p.m. Sunday, chatting up Tickets of America owner Michael Lipman in his office an hour and a half before tipoff — just before the peak of his game-day rush.
It was Lipman who sold the pricey courtside passes to the sheikh and who also made perhaps the most lucrative deal of the night: $19,500 per seat to a rap star whose name Lipman declined to disclose.
“This is turning out to be one of the biggest tickets in Heat history,” said Lipman, nattily attired in a charcoal suit and a grey paisley shirt. “It rivals Game 7 of the Celtics series. My phone’s been blowing up.”
Lipman said he expected to move roughly 75 percent of his total inventory for Game 3 Sunday, and acknowledged prices fall closer to the game you get. Still, he deals mostly in premium seats and had nothing under $200 when I left his shop, and so I kept searching.
After another lap around downtown Miami, time began to grow short. I finally broke down and did what I should have all along: I pulled up the StubHub mobile app on my iPhone. I had monitored prices on the second-hand ticket website throughout the day, and they had steadily fallen because of a glut.
At 10 a.m., the cheapest get-in was $160 (before fees), but that had dipped to as low as $75 by around 6 p.m. Problem was, I only wanted one seat, and finding one wasn’t easy. Those who owned multiple tickets by and large didn’t want to break them up.