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Redskins Fans Rush To Snap Up Few Tickets

By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Hey! Who needs tickets?

This is, after all, the Redskins first playoff game since the 1999 season. And believe it or not, there are some choices. Just be willing to pay. Playoff-deprived Skins fans can go for the nosebleed seats at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Saturday or even some on the 50-yard line, but for those who really want to do it up big, why not go for an entire luxury suite?

There was one available "between the 25s" on the Redskins side of the field that will hold 20 people in style. The price for the suite began at just under $40,000 yesterday afternoon but was up to $45,500 by the time the sun went down. Bidding on the suite will end in two days, and who knows how high the price will be by then.

Yesterday was Day 2 of Redskins postseason, and while the team was preparing to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- which beat Washington on a disputed touchdown this season -- fans were scrambling for game tickets, flights and hotel rooms.

"We've gotten hundreds of phone calls and are holding lots of reservations -- close to 100," said Art Ginolfi, vice president of sales for Omega World Travel, which runs RedskinsTravel.com, the official travel agent of the Redskins. "Most people don't have tickets, but they want to be in the area. They want to be down there, close to the stadium. They just want to be part of the action."

The vast majority of seats for Saturday's game went to Bucs season ticket holders -- the team sells out every game and has a waiting list of 115,000 people. A team spokesman said "a very limited number" of tickets went on sale to the public. The Redskins were allotted fewer than 1,000 tickets -- the same as the team gets for away games during the season -- and those typically go to players and coaches and their families. The NFL also got its small regular allotment.

That means that the typical Redskins fan has to find online auction sites such as eBay or ticket brokers.

Ginolfi said he hopes to have game tickets available this week, but the Redskins have told him not to hold his breath. "It is a little frustrating," he said, "but the fans have been great. They have been calling us since halftime of the Eagles game. Our Web site had 3,000 hits in the 24 hours since the end of the game."

Yesterday morning, Brad Malone, 27, of Dunedin, Fla., fired up his computer and scored six tickets from Ticketmaster. He began going to Bucs games with his grandfather, was a season ticket holder himself until this year and plans to keep two seats for himself and sell the other four. He's asking $250 for each of the seats, on the club level. As an incentive, Malone is throwing in a photo of Buccaneer cheerleaders.

Malone said in a telephone interview yesterday afternoon that he had not received any bids on the tickets but expected that the action would heat up as kickoff neared.

Ginolfi said he finds most Redskins fans to be "very well educated," and he may be right when it comes to scoring tickets.

J.T. Thompson, 27, of Springfield said he got his tickets Monday morning through a buddy in Tampa who had a password that allowed fans -- in theory, Bucs fans -- to get seats before they went on sale to the public through Ticketmaster.

"My buddy just called me," Thompson said last evening, "and I'm listening to a sports radio show down there. They are doing a segment complaining about all the Redskins fans who got the password and were able to get prepaid tickets. I think it's funny. I was there when they played the Bucs this season, and there were just tons of Redskins fans there, almost 60-40 -- and I imagine there're going to be a lot there Saturday."

Thompson is taking his girlfriend, Linnea Hultman, to the game. "She's kind of getting into football," he said. They're making a weekend of it and have an executive suite reserved at an airport hotel near the stadium. He paid face value for the tickets -- $94 plus tax.

Fans should beware of buying tickets online, said Marc Mathews, past president of the National Association of Ticket Brokers and owner of Top Centre Ticket Service in Fairfax. He warned that if you buy tickets from anyone other than a licensed broker, "you are just taking potluck."

One Web site had 485 tickets for sale, ranging from that $45,500 suite to $130 for a seat in Row Z of Section 343, which is so high you need air traffic controllers to guide your approach.

James Milburn will be much closer to the field. Milburn, 48, of Centreville is in a lower box on the 15-yard line on the Redskins side of the field. He bought the seats from an online broker. He's taking his girlfriend, and they are staying in a $480-a-night deluxe hotel room for two nights. It is the hotel where the Redskins are staying.

"I couldn't be happier," Milburn said. "I am, like, their top fan. I can't stand the Cowboys, and I let everyone I work with know it."

The trip to Tampa and the game will be his big vacation of the year. He said he decided to go even before the Redskins made the trip to Philadelphia to play the hurting Eagles. "Before we won the Eagles game, it was, like, I was telling my girlfriend, 'When we win this game, we are going to Tampa.' "

He spent $440 for each ticket. He'll save a little money by driving to Tampa. Milburn said he hopes his playoff experience will be different from the Redskins' in one way: He's one and done. He'll leave it to other fans to make the next road trip if the Redskins win Saturday.

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