- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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Tickets to the greatest annual sporting events in the country unfortunately aren't easily available. This means that, if you want to go, you'll have to pony up plenty of money. Before you get your hopes up, here's your cheat sheet for the Top 10 Hottest Tickets in American Sports.
1. The Masters
The Masters is unlike any other major sporting event in the world since the management at Augusta National is against maxing out the almighty dollar in the name of tradition. That means they limit the number of corporate partners, limit the amount of commercials (four per hour) that run on the CBS broadcast of the event, and they have shown no interest in making any sort of real market value off their tickets.
This year will mark the 40th straight sellout at Augusta, though we have no idea what that exactly means since the total number of tickets produced is not a public number. Tickets are not available for purchase, either. Only patrons who are on the list receive the right to purchase four-day badges for a ridiculous bargain of $175.
The list of the lucky ones also isn't public, though we know it consists of past champions, members of the club and Augusta residents. And you can't get a first-hand ticket by waiting on some list. That hasn't been opened since 1978 and it only opens to a few new fans a year since tickets can be willed from one family member to another.
So, what happens if you really want to go? Prepare to pay a broker $2,000 to $10,000 apiece.
You can apply for tickets to the practice rounds at Augusta National, but even those are limited. Applications for 2007 must be in by July 15, 2006. For more information, see www.masters.org.
Also, the annual Par-3 Tournament held on the Wednesday of Masters week is a fun event. Fans are allowed to take photos (which is prohibited during the tournament itself) and are more likely to enjoy some relaxed interaction with the players.
2. Duke vs. North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium
You won't see the NCAA men's basketball championship on this list -- those seats can be had for a couple hundred dollars. But a ticket to this rivalry in Durham is for the high rollers. Tickets to the matchup this year sold in the $2,000 range. "If you don't have a lot of money and you want to go to this game, the best thing to do is try to get into Duke as a student," said Eric Baker, co-founder of Stubhub, an online secondary ticket marketplace.
What makes this ticket so expensive is the rivalry combined with the lack of seats. Try this matchup at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, where a seat typically can be had for $350 because the arena has 12,000 more seats.
3. The Super Bowl
Tickets to the NFL's championship game usually can be had for $2,000 apiece before the teams are announced. That price will either rise or fall depending on a variety of factors, most importantly the popularity of the teams. The worst seat in the house for Super Bowl XL was selling, at the last minute, for $2,500. Super Bowl XXXVIII ended at $1,500 and Super Bowl XXXVI ended at $100. With the face value of the tickets now in the $600 to $700 range, don't expect to ever get anything under face.
• More: Top Super Bowl ticket myths
Some of the hottest Super Bowl parties are invite-only, but after three straight Super Bowls in so-so cities -- Houston, Jacksonville and Detroit -- Miami is going to be rocking with parties. For $1,500, you can have your choice of some of the best in town.
4. The 2007 NBA All-Star Game
Tickets to the NBA All-Star Game typically hover in the $800 to $1,000 range. Good luck getting anything close to that price when the league's midseason classic heads to Las Vegas. Gamblers will use this as another excuse to get to Sin City, even though no action will be taken on the game itself.
Maybe go a couple days early and hope to win enough money to afford a broker's asking price? OK, maybe not.
Just get yourself to Vegas for All-Star Weekend and enjoy. It's not like you can't find anything else to do if you can't get into the game! The atmosphere around town is sure to be even more wild and outrageous than usual, and you'll probably pocket dozens of celebrity sightings from the A-list to the D-list. The game itself may well end up being an afterthought.
5. BCS National Championship Game
How much demand is there for a game like this? More than 100,000 seats in the Rose Bowl are just not enough. This past year, $175 tickets were routinely selling for more than $1,000, thanks to the fan bases of USC and Texas.
A trip to the Rose Bowl offers enough pageantry and general Southern California fun to make it worth your while any year. Try it in a non-national championship year when prices are lower.
6. The World Series
As Red Sox fans found out in 2004, ticket prices can greatly vary depending on the location. For many, it was actually cheaper to fly to St. Louis and see one of the games at Busch Stadium than to pay top-notch prices in Boston. Ticket prices range from hundreds to thousands depending on location inside the stadium.
Location, location, location. If you're determined to cross the World Series off your list of sports events to see in a lifetime, sit tight and wait for a year when there's a team with a relatively large stadium and relatively lukewarm support. While bandwagon fans are sure to sell the place out, prices on the secondary market should be more reasonable.
7. Red Sox vs. Yankees at Fenway Park
While we're on the Red Sox... There's no question that this is among the best rivalries in sports, and if you're going to watch it at Fenway, prepare to pay a pretty penny. Face value tickets are already among the highest in baseball with capacity around 36,000. Green Monster seats, which were once $50 when they debuted in 2003, now cost as much as $130 each. Field box seats are normally $95 and loge box seats are $85. But you're certainly not paying those kinds of prices to watch the team play against "The Evil Empire." If you want to see these teams play at the end of the season with something on the line, prepare to pay $500 apiece and that's not even going to get you much.
As with Duke-North Carolina above, it's all about capacity. Yankee Stadium can hold more than 56,000 fans, so Red Sox-Yankees prices should be a bit lower there.
An alternative in Boston is simply to head across the street from Fenway to the Cask 'n Flagon, and watch from that classic sports bar. Step outside onto Landsdowne Street to try to chase down home run balls which clear the Green Monster.
8. Kentucky Derby
If you just want to get in the place, you can pay $40 for walk-up general admission tickets that can get you in the infield at Churchill Downs. But actually having a chance to really watch the race from the grandstand will cost you at least $300 and clubhouse seats will set you back at least $1,000.
Pack away your fancy hats until you get a raise, and fork over the $40 for the unsurpassed scene of debauchery that is the Kentucky Derby infield.
As far as the Triple Crown, Belmont Park is much larger, and ticket prices are much lower. Buy your tickets and cross your fingers that you'll see the Belmont Stakes with the Triple Crown on the line.
9. U.S. Open Men's Final
There are 23,000 seats at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the U.S. Open men's final at the U.S. National Tennis Center. But the event's close proximity to New York and the tremendous corporate investment in the tournament means forking over hundreds of dollars for a nosebleed seat.
Best chance of getting a cheap ducat? Root for a real no-name to make it into final two.
In many ways, tennis majors are best experienced in the early or middle rounds, when you can stroll the grounds, soak up the atmosphere, and catch multiple matches in a day. Go to www.usopen.org for ticket information; 2006 tickets go on sale on June 12.
10. NASCAR Sharpie 500 (Bristol Motor Speedway)
Even though Bristol Motor Speedway seats 164,000, the nighttime race held there in late summer is known as the toughest ticket in NASCAR. Ticket holders are able renew their tickets annually, and pretty much all of them do choose to return to this half-mile oval which has a football stadium feel, with seats surrounding the entire track.
Why not just go to NASCAR's premier race, the Daytona 500? You'll have no trouble scoring a ticket, though a good box seat will cost you north of $200. Great seats -- like in the Nextel Tower section -- will cost you triple that.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org
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