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Thursday, September 3, 2009
AFC East not immune to blackouts



Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Wayne Huizenga saw it coming.

Fifteen months ago, I spoke with him at a community event in Coconut Creek, Fla. He still owned the Miami Dolphins then and was stressed about how the economy was going to impact ticket sales in 2008.

It was only June, and his sales staff was meeting resistance from the club's most loyal customers.

Feedback suggested it wasn't the club's 1-15 record that was creating uneasiness at the box office.

"You have some people who say 'I'm really excited, but I can't afford it,' " Huizenga said at the time.

Huizenga saw it was time to get out for various reasons and sold his beloved team to Stephen Ross. At least part of the reason was Huizenga didn't like what he recognized as a developing trend of people not buying tickets to watch games in person because of the economy.

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" will air a report on the NFL's growing blackout problems Thursday afternoon.

USA Today this week published a blackout forecast for all 32 teams.

A reminder of how blackouts work: Teams have until 72 hours before kickoff to sell out their home games. Sometimes an extension is granted. If they don't sell every seat, then the game cannot be shown within a 75-mile radius of the stadium.

In the AFC East, the New England Patriots won't have anything to worry about. They've already sold out all eight home games. The New York Jets and Dolphins expect to sell out their home schedule, but Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene told USA Today there were no guarantees.

The Buffalo Bills need to sell out only seven games because they exported one of their home dates to the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The Bills reportedly have sold 55,000 season tickets, a figure that rates with what they drew during their Super Bowl years. Ralph Wilson Stadium seats 73,079.

Many of those tickets were purchased in the euphoric stage after the Bills signed receiver Terrell Owens. Thursday night's preseason finale against the Detroit Lions will be blacked out.

As mentioned in an earlier post on Forbes team valuations, average ticket prices for each AFC East club: Patriots $118; Jets $87; Dolphins $66; Bills $51.