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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Bears-Packers matchup would be pricey

By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- On Dec. 14, 1941, just one week after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers met for a tiebreaking Western Division championship game. Both teams had finished 10-1 in the division, so a first-ever divisional playoff game was created.

Before the game, excited fans lined up downtown to buy standing-room only tickets for this unique event for $1.65 (equivalent to almost $25 today) and they sold out quickly, according to a Chicago Daily Tribune story.

Clarke Hinkle
The last time Green Bay and Chicago met in the playoffs, Clarke Hinkle and the Packers lost to the Bears 33-14 in the 1941 Western Division Championship Game.

Bleacher seats for Bears games typically cost $1. (As an example of how much playoff tickets were going for at the time, for the NFL championship game against the Giants, box seats went for $4.40 and general admission was $3.30, according to the Tribune.) The Bears won 33-14 in front of an announced crowd of 43,424 at Wrigley Field, and the 47th meeting between the Bears and the Packers was the last time the two rivals have met in the playoffs.

Now, fast forward 70 years, where we're two wins away from seeing the teams fight for a chance to make the Super Bowl.

Twenty-five bucks, today's equivalent for the cost of one SRO ticket in 1941, gets you three beers at Soldier Field. This game could set records for a non-Super Bowl NFL game.

The open market for potential tickets to a Bears-Packers NFC championship is already through the roof. The Bears have to beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Soldier Field to advance, while Green Bay has a tougher task, beating the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

Football Outsiders gives the Bears a 92.1 percent chance to make the NFC championship game, and the Packers 43.1. The Falcons have a 56.9 percent chance to host the game.

According to SeatGeek, a company that forecasts, aggregates, and lists tickets on the secondary market for major events on its website, tickets for a Bears-Packers title game are averaging $406. And that doesn't tell the entire story. Because the cheapest tickets being dangled are a handful for $388, with some as high as $8,800. And that's just early speculation. Imagine what they'll be going for Monday.

"We've been hearing both Packers and Bears fans getting excited about the potential of a championship game," Ben Kessler, SeatGeek's Director of Communications, wrote in an e-mail. "Bears fans are ready to spend on the postseason, with the Seahawks at Bears game this weekend commanding the highest average ticket prices of all four divisional games so far."

The average ticket for the Seahawks-Bears game is $321, Kessler wrote.

When the Packers came to Soldier Field on Sept. 27, tickets averaged $280. In the season-ending game at Lambeau Field, tickets averaged $208.

The Bears have one of the most expensive average tickets in the NFL at $93.55, according to Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index survey. Their premium ticket average is $372, also one of the highest in the league.

When a limited amount of playoff tickets went on sale through Ticketmaster, they ranged from $107 to $559, not including the convenience charge.

The Bears are typically tight-lipped about business matters, and they have no reason to change. They sell out every game.

"Thanks to the most passionate and dedicated fans in the NFL, we've been sold out for 26 years," Bears senior director of sales and marketing Chris Hibbs wrote in an e-mail.

Hibbs added that playoff games typically mean more excited fans, and thus, more spending on food and beverages. Obviously the hype of the Bears and Packers will only make fans more excited. Considering that the cheapest beer at Soldier Field is $8 and soft drinks are $4.50, those numbers bode well.

"No doubt the 'buzz meter' would be off the charts in that scenario and that will help our business in lots of ways," Hibbs wrote. "Both short-term and long-term."

One thing is for sure, the Super Bowl will have better attendance than the 1941 NFL Championship, and the players will make more money off it. The game, a 39-7 Bears win over the New York Giants, came just a week after the win over the Packers and under duress of the war, drew just 13,341 fans.

Thanks to the low gate, the Tribune reported the Bears were particularly glum to have made just $430.94 per person for the win, down from $870 the previous year, when they beat the Redskins 73-0 at Griffith Stadium.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.