8 Most Expensive Sports Championship Tickets

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- A championship or a spot in a premier sports event is worth a lifetime's worth of work to those involved, but how much should it be worth to fans?

When a fan's team makes a title run or a fan finally decides to drop money on a marquee sporting event, ticket price is just one item in a steeplechase of obstacles between fans and their tickets to the big show. Jennifer Swanson, spokeswoman for Ticketmaster's resale service TicketsNow, says a championship or premier event is only as pricey as the market dictates.
A lot of factors affect demand for tickets to events such as NBA games. If a major event's ticket looks like a steal, fans should still buy warily.

"Of course, there are many dynamics involved in ticket resale prices for marquee events," she says, citing as examples the teams involved (and those fervent fan bases that will travel), how many games in a series (if it goes to a Game 7), market/event location (Dallas vs. Indy for a Super Bowl), weather (rain at Daytona, hurricane at U.S. Open) and so on. "Just so many factors that come into play when you're talking about demand for event tickets."

After weighing all of those variables, we came up with a quick price comparison of eight of the top events on the sports calendar using data from TicketsNow. If a major event's ticket looks like a steal, fans might want to consider scouting out the location or at least checking their sports sources a few times before splurging:

U.S. Open Golf Championship
2011 average ticket price for all days: $134

This is easily the lowest-priced event on our list, but it's a little easier to score tickets to a multiday event in which tickets start out around $50 for practice rounds. The absence of Tiger Woods last year may have driven down prices initially, but Rory McIlroy's record-breaking run to the title made late-round tickets a bargain for anyone lucky enough to get into the galleries at Bethesda for bottom-dollar.

Daytona 500
2012 average ticket price: $184

These tickets are a lot costlier under ideal conditions, but went for budget prices this year after rain postponed the start by a day. That's no small change, especially when a race that was supposed to be run on a Sunday when everybody's off gets kicked to Monday, right in the middle of the workday. The residual rain that followed Monday turned out to be a blessing, as the start was pushed from noon to much later in the evening. Waterlogged ticketholders waited a day and a half to watch Matt Kenseth edge out Dale Earnhardt Jr., but we're guessing more than a few folks in the grandstand got a deal as a result.

Final Four
2012 average ticket price (championship game only): $414

That price more than doubles if you factor in two games in the previous round, but that's impressive even for the title game alone. Having storied programs such as Kentucky and Kansas in the final certainly helped, as does having blue-faced Wildcat followers and "Rock Chalk"-chanting Jayhawks fans to fill the building. The only reason that price isn't higher is the nature of the tournament itself: For all the Kentucky and Kansas fans who bought finals tickets, there were Ohio State and Louisville faithful doing the same thing once their teams made the Final Four. Once those schools are eliminated, a whole lot of championship seats go on the market. There's demand for those tickets, but no real shortage of supply in a venue as large as New Orleans' Superdome.

World Series
2011 average ticket price of all games played in series: $567

The St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers took this one to seven games in a fevered back-and-forth series that didn't leave either fan base despondent enough to dump tickets. In fact, attendance and demand only increased as the series went on. Even the rain that postponed Game 6 wasn't much of a deterrent, as Busch Stadium took in more fans than it did in either Game 1 or Game 2. Those faithful were rewarded for their investment with 11 innings and David Freese's solo home run to force Game 7.

NBA Finals
2011 average ticket price of all games played in series: $629

That average is mercurial at best, according to the folks at StubHub . During last year's Finals alone, average ticket prices ranged from $416 for Game 1 to $677 for Game 3. Still, the prices for last year's series between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks were some of the lowest in recent years. Back in 2010 when the Boston Celtics played the Los Angeles Lakers in a rematch of the 2008 Finals, the average ticket price started at $674 for Game 1 and soared to $905 for Game 6 and a whopping $1,316 for Game 7. The latter was the highest resale average of the past three years. For the lowest, you'd have to go back to the Lakers' four-game sweep of the Orlando Magic in 2009. The series started out with an average $658 for Game 1 and $722 for Game 2, but cratered below $400 for the next two games as Dwight Howard and company lost steam.

Stanley Cup Finals
2011 average ticket price of all games played in series: $1,142

Ticket prices for the NBA Finals look as regimented as a 1950s layup drill compared with the outright chaos of Stanley Cup pricing. Matchups don't matter, location doesn't matter. Even the length of the series itself doesn't seem to make much difference. Last year's seven-game series between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins started with average ticket prices of $833 for Game 1 and $976 for Game 2, dropped off to $657 for Game 3 after the Canucks won the opening games at home and soared from $774 in Game 4 to $1,219 by Game 5. If fans wanted to see Game 7 up close, it cost them $2,118 on average.

That seems to go according to script, but when the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks faced off in 2010, average ticket prices never broke $1,000 and managed only $681 for Game 6 compared with more than $700 for the relatively meaningless first two games. Sometimes the economy plays a role as well, as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings discovered when their series in the middle of 2009's economic crisis featured average prices as low as $226 for Game 2 and a $746 average price for Game 7 that was the most expensive of the series, but would have been 2011's second cheapest.

BCS National Championship
2012 average ticket price: $2,251

This one will get a bit more intriguing when college football goes to a playoff system, but it's already seemingly immune to price cuts. First off, there are only four potential locations for this event and New Orleans, Pasadena, Glendale and Miami aren't known for particularly foul weather on game day. Secondly, as Boise State can attest, the BCS likes to get the biggest schools possible into its premier event, and the Southeast Conference's success in recent years has assured just that. Big, traveling fan bases have helped the average ticket price increase from the $882 fans paid on StubHub to watch Alabama beat Texas in 2010 to $1,158 to see Auburn defeat Oregon a year later.

Super Bowl
2012 average ticket price: $3,864

There was some concern among ticket sellers that this year's Super Bowl in Indianapolis wouldn't have as much appeal as the first Super Bowl at Dallas' new stadium last year or the bars on South Beach during the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami. Then the New York Giants and New England Patriots decided to have a rematch of their 2008 Super Bowl and all was right once more in resale world. In fact, Super Bowl ticket prices have only increased in the past three years as fans paid an average of $2,386 to watch the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints play in 2010 and $3,559 to see the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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