Is 5K the New Normal for Super Bowl Tickets?

A confluence of events have driven Super Bowl ticket prices yet again to insane levels.

01.31.16 9:43 PM ET

The price of entry to the most excessive event in the world keeps getting more expensive. This year, Super Bowl tickets with an average price of over $5,000 prices are historically high.  

There are three things driving demand: San Francisco’s technology wealth; Denver’s proximity to the game and the fact that it will likely be the last chance to see Peyton Manning play in the NFL.

It wasn’t always a play-day for plutocrats, though. For Super Bowl I, as of the kickoff on January 15th 1967, there were 33,000 unsold tickets available for $12 each.  For last year’s game in Arizona, $12 was the price for a draft beer at the game.  

It’s a fair bet that beer prices will be higher this year, and the cheapest tickets for Super Bowl 50 is going for just under $2,500. The most expensive seat is going for $16,000.   Tickets, though, are just the start with hotels and flights for this year’s game going for at least another $2,000, according to Priceline.com.  At a minimum that means you’re spending $5,000 on the trip and tickets, and an average fan will be paying closer to $10,000. 

Here’s the good news: Last year, that’s what the ticket cost by itself.  The high prices and market fallout was the result of a bad bet made by many brokers that ticket prices would go down, as they almost always do.  

Over the last six years, between Championship Sunday and Super Bowl Sunday, the average price for Super Bowl tickets decreased by 30%. Last year, prices never went down, and brokers who bet that it would lost badly.  The bet put many brokers out of business, and led others to renege on orders.  As a result, hundreds of fans who thought they had a ticket to the game arrived in Arizona only to find out they didn't.

In addition to some very disappointed Patriots fans, that also led to a class action lawsuit and yet another black eye in the ticket market’s long list of mug shots.    

This year’s average price is the second most expensive behind only last year, and it raises the question of whether, like the El-Nino driven weather, we’ve moved into new world of ticket market volatility and high prices. As recently as 2013, fans could have gotten a ticket for the game for under $1,000 just before kickoff.  

Prior to last year, the highest demand Super Bowl we’ve tracked was in 2011 between Packers and Steelers, two original NFL teams with fan bases that travel in force. That year, the average at kick off was $3,649, and prices declined 10% between the championship game and kick-off. If this year’s market decreases by the same rate, between now and the game, it would be almost $1,000 more expensive than 2011.

For those longing for the halcyon days of $1,000 ticket, praying for rain (or snow) may be the best bet.  In Payton Manning’s last Super Bowl appearance, in New York City, many speculated that it would be the most expensive Super Bowl in history given the proximity to Wall Street.  

Instead, inaccurate predictions about the possibility of a gameday snowstorm kept buyers at bay and kept demand soft until kickoff and drive the average price on the secondary market below $1,500.  While prices for Super Bowl 50 will likely not get that low, true bargain hunters will need patience. 

Two years from now, Super Bowl LII will be played at the almost-finished US Bank Stadium in Minnesota, where the average February temperature is 15.6 degrees and the average February snowfall is 12 inches.  Barring a trip by the Packers or Vikings, that’s the kind of weather that could bring back $1,000 tickets.  Start saving up now.