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Ticket Brokers Having a Field Day

'Cheap Seats' for Nationals' Home Opener Fetch $200

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 23, 2005; Page E01

Tickets to the home opening night of the newly born Washington Nationals have become a hot commodity among brokers, with the asking price for lower-deck seats at RFK Stadium topping $1,200 -- nearly 30 times the face value of the ticket -- and a $7 pass to the nosebleed section surpassing $200.

It isn't opening day at Yankee Stadium: Ticket brokers are demanding up to $3,000 for top-notch seats to the New York Yankees' April 3 home opener against their 2004 American League Championship Series conqueror, the Boston Red Sox.

Ticket brokers, and Nationals officials, say the historic nature of the April 14 game is pushing up prices. (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

But in hawking the Nationals' opening-night tickets, brokers say that the sense of history is helping drive up the price.

"These prices are high just because this is the first time in 40 years that we've had an opening day here in Washington," said Danny Matta, owner of GreatSeats Inc., a College Park-based brokerage that yesterday had 43 Nationals' opening-night tickets for sale, at prices ranging from $195 to $895 apiece. "Forty years is a long time."

It's actually been 34 years since the Washington Senators left town, but Matta still predicted that as April 14 draws nearer, and the crack of the bat rejoins the cherry blossom as a springtime ritual in the nation's capital, prices may go even higher.

"It's a nice little shot in the arm for me that the Nationals are on the road for the first two weeks of the season," Matta said from his office at College Park Shopping Center. "People will be watching baseball on TV, they'll be watching the Nationals on TV, and they'll be thinking, 'Hey, I want to go to the first game.' "

The Nationals, like other entertainment businesses, can do little more than shrug at the prices being charged by ticket brokers. Though many cities and states, including the District, prohibit scalping -- reselling tickets at above face value without proper permits -- legitimate ticket brokers can acquire seats from the team, season ticket holders or other sources and resell them for whatever price people are willing to pay.

"This is flattering, is what it is," David Cope, the Nationals' sales and marketing director, said of the high ticket prices. "I'd much rather see them selling our tickets for $1,000, than [for] less than face value, I will tell you that. It's exciting to see there's that much demand for our first game."

Cope, in several interviews this week, didn't seem surprised by the high asking prices for the opening-night game (the opponent is the Arizona Diamondbacks).

"There is a reason for this," he said. "You know, President Bush is coming to throw the first pitch. And it's the first regular-season Major League Baseball game in Washington in 34 years. It's a very special event."

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