Finally, at 7:23 p.m., I found what I thought was the perfect opportunity: $120 (plus a hefty $27 in fees) for Section 417, Row 13, Seat 4. I pulled the trigger, and bought the ticket, which had originally belonged to Retzena. I know this because his name was conveniently (for my purposes at least, but surely not his) printed on the ticket. I hopped in a cab, and felt pretty good about myself as I arrived at the arena.
My mood darkened when I, out of morbid curiosity, went back on StubHub to see where the prices stood 10 minutes before game time.
They had absolutely collapsed, falling as low as $24. Let that marinate for a second: A seat for a sold-out, championship-round game was marked down by more than 80 percent. And it could have been yours, simply by knowing the right time to buy. In all, StubHub sold 4,203 tickets to Game 3, at over $500 a piece. That figure would have been even lower if not for the four courtsides the website sold for a combined $60,000.
There’s no reason to think Game 4, which is also sold out at the box office, won’t be more of the same. As of Monday afternoon, roughly 2,400 tickets remained for Tuesday’s game, starting at $160 each. Short of an unexpected run on them overnight, there will be a similar backlog of inventory Tuesday. That means prices will likely again nose dive.
My advice for bargain hunters who don’t care about sitting near Lil Wayne, but instead just want to get in the door without going broke:
• Download StubHub’s mobile app so you can purchase remotely — and wait to get the best deals.
• Consider licensed brokers such as Tickets of America, which are flexible with prices depending on demand.
• Monitor the action throughout the day, but don’t commit outside of three hours before tipoff, unless the deal is really sweet or there are fewer than 400 passes left available (StubHub sold 270 tickets between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday).
• If possible, get a seat. The standing-room only areas are about as big as a balcony on one of Micky Arison’s cruise ships. As I proved, chairs can be had cheaply.
The game was a blast, even though I had the Goodyear Blimp view. Sat three rows from the top next to a father and son, Brett and Blake Stern, who stayed until Miami had salted away the victory — even though it likely ended past rising fourth-grader Blake’s bedtime. The Sterns had paid face value for their two seats, plus $250 to join the Heat’s Priority Access club, which gives members first crack at tickets. I was embarrassed to admit what I spent on mine.
On Monday, I decided to give Retzena a phone call in Pennsylvania to get his story. As I assumed, mine wasn’t the only ticket he bought purely as an investment opportunity. He slashed prices when it became clear he was asking too much.
“All I can say is, you got lucky,” Retzena said with a chuckle, when asked about my sales price. “It’s like the stock market. But if the Heat wins Tuesday, I strongly believe that the prices for Game 5 [a potential series-clincher] will be high.”
I, for one, will be watching Game 5 from home. No matter how great the deal, you can only talk The Herald into picking up the tab once.