Reduced capacity drives up Georgia-Florida ticket prices

Ticket prices on the secondary market for Saturday’s Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville are higher than in past years, a reflection of sharply reduced seating capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The average secondary-market list price for Georgia-Florida tickets early this week was $386, up 64% from an average of $236 for the 2019 game and the highest in at least five years, according to data provided by TicketIQ founder Jesse Lawrence. The get-in price, or lowest available price, was $124 early this week, up 15% from $108 for last year’s game and also the highest in at least five years.

“Reduced capacity is a major factor,” Lawrence said.

Ticket prices on the secondary market are fluid and can rise or fall, sometimes substantially, in the days leading to the game.

Attendance at TIAA Bank Field will be limited to about 18,000 fans, roughly 25% of the stadium’s full capacity, to enable social distancing between occupied pods of seats. It’ll be the smallest crowd at a Georgia-Florida game since at least the 1940s, but roughly comparable to the teams' home attendance amid COVID-19 restrictions this season.

Georgia has announced attendance of 20,524 at each of its two home games, about 22% of Sanford Stadium’s normal capacity. Florida announced it would limit attendance this season to 17,000, roughly 20% of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium’s capacity, and has drawn less than that for its two home games: 15,120 and 12,049.

Throughout college football and the NFL, teams are playing in stadiums with steeply reduced seating capacities – or in many cases before no fans at all – because of the pandemic.

The Falcons, for example, have allowed fans at two home games so far this season, drawing 6,656 for the Oct. 11 game against Carolina and 7,796 for the Oct. 25 game against Detroit. Those crowds represented about 9% and 10% of Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s capacity.

The six NFL teams that allowed fans at home games Sunday had crowds ranging from 4,345 (Baltimore) to 12,397 (Miami). The Dallas Cowboys, the most aggressive NFL team in terms of attendance this season, had 25,174 at their most recent home game, about 27% of AT&T Stadium’s capacity.

The Falcons initially said they expected to accommodate crowds of 10,000 to 20,000 before deciding they’d prefer to limit capacity to about 10% of their stadium’s normal capacity for safety reasons. By all indications, 10% has been sufficient to meet the limited demand for tickets this season in light of the pandemic and, perhaps, the team’s poor record.

Despite the limited inventory, the average secondary-market price for tickets to the Falcons' Oct. 11 game was down 36% from the team’s 2019 home opener and the get-in price (cheapest ticket) was down 45%, according to TicketIQ, a ticket search engine.

That bucked the general trend across the secondary market.

“With reduced capacity, college football and NFL secondary-market prices are up compared to previous years,” Lawrence said. “There’s still some hesitation for fans going to live events with all that is going on. Overall, based on the price increases over previous seasons, the demand is solid.”

Prices can be volatile. For last week’s Notre Dame at Georgia Tech game, secondary-market prices on StubHub were as low as $57 for upper end-zone seats Friday, the day before the game, but dropped to as low as $34 on Saturday. On Friday, the most expensive ticket listed was $386.

Announced attendance for the game was 11,000, same as for Tech’s three previous home games, 20% of Bobby Dodd Stadium’s capacity.

For Saturday’s game in Jacksonville, where first place in the SEC East will be at stake, Georgia and Florida received slightly under 9,000 tickets each and sold them to season-ticket holders/donors. Thousands of those tickets found their way to the secondary market for resale, as usual.

The experience will be very different than usual, however, for fans who attend.

Tailgating, a longstanding tradition at the game, won’t be permitted in official stadium parking lots because of the pandemic, and only game ticket holders will be allowed in the lots. Fans without game tickets are being “strongly encouraged" by city officials to stay clear of Jacksonville’s downtown sports complex area. Ancillary events, including RV City, the game’s Hall of Fame luncheon and the Bold City Bash fan experience, have been canceled for this year.

Inside the stadium, masks will be required to be worn except when eating or drinking, and all transactions will be cashless. Pods of occupied seats will be located at least six feet apart.