Why was it so hard to sell out the Metrodome?
A week of nail-biting ended well for Minnesota and its fans Saturday afternoon: The Vikings announced Sunday's wild-card playoff game against Philadelphia is a sellout and will be televised locally. The team sold 20,000 tickets in seven days, capitalizing on two deadline extensions from the NFL.
All's well that ends well, I suppose. But it's still worth exploring why it was so difficult for the Vikings to sell out their first home playoff game in eight seasons. (And remember, an official sellout at the Metrodome is a relatively low 62,000 tickets sold.)
You provided an overwhelming response to the questions we posed Wednesday, allowing us to break down the issue into four primary categories:
1. Dollars and sense
The national economic recession dissuaded some individual fans who faced slight increases in their ticket prices. John wrote: "I am a college student in Minneapolis and when I heard there were 20,000 tickets available I looked into going. Unfortunately the cheapest ticket I could find was $80, so if me and a couple buddies wanted to go it would be about $240.00 plus parking and concessions. Too rich for my blood."
Meanwhile, the start of an unpredictable corporate first quarter left many companies unwilling or unable to buy their usual corporate allotment. Dan wrote: "One guy whose firm has seats in my section told me they weren't getting playoff tickets because they're letting people go. How could they possibly buy tickets when employees are getting laid off?"
2. The invoice procedure
There was significant confusion about the terms and timing of pre-purchasing playoff tickets. I can't tell you how many people said they were confused or otherwise turned off by the invoice and its instructions. I looked at a copy and it seemed relatively straightforward and pretty standard for the NFL. But it's worth noting if so many people were bothered by it.
The one area that might have been difficult to understand, or at least accept, was a pre-payment requirement (another NFL standard). According to the invoice, customer were asked to pre-pay for tickets at the wild-card price. If the Vikings received a first-round bye, ticket-buyers would receive a second charge for the difference between wild-card and (the higher) division-round prices.
Finally, if the Vikings missed the playoffs, the price of the tickets would be applied toward 2009 season tickets unless you submitted a written request for a refund. The refund would not be processed until after January 26, or about a month after the Vikings would have been eliminated from playoff contention. Nick wrote: "I find the written request similar to rebates in that you make the customer jump through hoops to receive what should be fairly easy to provide upfront, without the hassle. It might be negligible, but I would be willing to venture the written requirement turned away some season ticket holders preparing for the holidays."
3. Team tease
Like it or not, there were some fans who were skeptical of the team's playoff aptitude even after a 10-6 season. TRD said he waited until the Vikings clinched a berth before buying tickets but admitted: "In all honesty, fans aren't that psyched about [coach Brad Childress] or [Tarvaris Jackson], [and are] not enthused about the prospects of the Philly match-up..."
4. The Metrodome
Finally, some fans said they prefer to watch the game on television rather than at the outdated Metrodome. (I find that sentiment ironic, considering that sentiment in Minnesota is so opposed to building a publicly-financed stadium. But that's for another day.) Long lines, crowded concourses and deep rows of seats in many sections were the most common specifics. Danny wrote: "I was at last Sunday's game against the Giants, and I heard countless people talking about what a dump the Metrodome is, and as a former season ticket holder and a Twins fan, that is exactly what the Dome is. People were saying they would rather watch the game from the comfort of their own home instead of being in such a pitiful, old stadium."