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CFP National Championship Game Survives Poor Ticket Sales

23 Jan, 2019

By: Michael Popke

Ticket sales for Jan. 7’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game were so slow that officials feared a record-low turnout for the Alabama-Clemson matchup at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

The fact that both universities were located about 2,000 miles to the east prompted ticket resellers to drop prices to $150 or so about 24 hours before kickoff. “This is a marquee event that typically isn’t this affordable,” a StubHub spokesperson told USA Today prior to the game. “It’s a great opportunity for Bay Area residents to watch a championship game.”

Maybe that’s why last-minute buyers on the secondary market snapped up enough tickets to drive the average price up to $448 per seat and eventually boost the game to sell-out status. As The Mercury News in San Jose, Calif., reported, that was“nearly $150 off of the previous CFP National Championship low when ticket prices averaged $593 for a Clemson-Alabama matchup in Glendale, Ariz., in 2016.”

Others blamed the lack of interest on the venue itself. SBNation.com called Levi’s Stadium, which hosted Super Bowl 50, “the worst National Championship venue available” — with traffic “appropriately craptacular on a good day, and the parking around the stadium limited and expensive.”

“Atmosphere is non-existent, as the massive, Borg-like block of hermetically sealed luxury suites dominates one side of the stadium,” continued writer Spencer Hall, editor of the college football website EDSBS.com and a contributor to SBNation.com. “In the afternoon, the glass fronts of the suites reflect sun into the cheap seats across the way. When it isn’t a billion-dollar microwave that slow-roasts half its patrons, Levi’s Stadium has all the character of a freshly built county prison.”

Yikes.

The fans who were there saw a lopsided 44-16 Clemson victory, giving the Tigers their second national title in three years.

“When it comes to gameday ticket prices, this is about geography and familiarity,” added Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel. “A year ago, Alabama and Georgia conveniently met in Atlanta and the average ticket price on SeatGeek hit a whopping $3,046, nearly two-and-a-half times the $1,262 average the year before for Alabama-Clemson in Tampa, Fla. Proximity to the fanbases was everything.”

Then he offered a solution: “College football … lacks the true national following of the NFL. College football could give up on trying to grow interest and just make sure the title game is played in the South, or at most the Midwest, as a nod to the most likely participants. Or it could try to market the sport in underdeveloped regions by bringing a coveted game such as this to the Bay Area where maybe some new fans are caught up in the excitement. Along that vein, college football is trying. The weekend in San Jose [included] numerous events downtown for fans coming in from near or far.”

The CFP National Championship Game returns to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2020 and then moves further south in 2021, to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., before heading north in 2022 to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis — longtime home of the Big Ten Championship Game. Then the big game heads west again, with Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park slated to host in 2023. That venue is expected to open next year.

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