boston.com Business your connection to The Boston Globe

Indianapolis Colts limit ticket sales

Locals-only rule hits Patriots fans 2d time

The Indianapolis Colts, like the San Diego Chargers before them, made it impossible yesterday for New England Patriots fans to buy tickets online for this Sunday's AFC Championship game in Indianapolis.

The Colts put nearly 1,000 tickets on sale, but the only people who could buy them were walk-up customers at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis and at Ticketmaster outlets in Indiana and Louisville, Ky. No tickets were sold online or by phone.

Lynda Frank of Tewksbury, who drew attention to a similar locals-only San Diego Chargers policy last week, said shutting out New England fans is not going to help the Colts prevail over the Patriots.

"It didn't work for the Chargers and it's not going to work for the Colts, either," she said. The Patriots upset the Chargers 24-21 on Sunday.

A Colts spokesman referred calls to another official with the team, who could not be reached for comment.

The Chargers last week caused an uproar across New England by restricting the sale of the few remaining tickets to residents of Southern California. A Chargers spokesman said the team wanted to solidify home-field advantage by restricting sales to people with credit cards with billing addresses in Southern California.

The Chicago Bears, who play host on Sunday to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game, also are restricting sales to locals. The remaining tickets for that game go on sale online and by phone this morning through Ticketmaster, but only credit cards with Illinois or Northwest Indiana billing addresses will be accepted.

The National Football League has no policy against locals-only ticket restrictions, and lawyers consulted by the Globe say the policies would be legal unless specifically prohibited by state laws.

For Patriots fans who want to go to Indianapolis for the game, the only ticket option now is the secondary-ticket market. Indiana has virtually no antiscalping regulations, so fans are free to resell and buy tickets for whatever price they want. Tickets appear to be plentiful on websites like Ticketliquidator, Ticketsnow, and StubHub.

The Colts list San Francisco-based reseller StubHub Inc. as the club's official secondary-ticket marketplace. The Chargers and the Bears have a similar relationship with StubHub.

By contrast, the Patriots are suing StubHub, alleging the company encourages fans to resell their tickets on the website in violation of the rarely enforced Massachusetts antiscalping law, which limits markups on resales to $2 above face value. StubHub has countersued , claiming the team is trying to monopolize the secondary market for its tickets.

Sean Pate , a StubHub spokesman, said that as of yesterday afternoon there were more than 1,500 seats for the Patriots-Colts game listed for sale by fans on StubHub. Prices ranged from $265 for a seat in the upper level to $2,500 for a seat in the TD Club, which is located next to the field around the 50-yard line. The face value of Colts-Patriots tickets was not available on the team's website, and team officials could not be reached for comment.

The average price of a ticket for the Colts-Patriots game on StubHub was $437, said Pate, who called it "a relative bargain" for an AFC Championship game. He said the free market for ticket resales in Indiana helps keep prices down.

"It basically floods the market with tickets so it keeps the prices more reasonable than they normally would be," Pate said. He estimated the average price would be $600 to $700 if the game were in Massachusetts, where the price of ticket resales is restricted. Beacon Hill lawmakers are currently considering changes in the state's ticketing laws.

Pate said he was disappointed to hear that the Chargers, Bears, and Colts were restricting the initial sale of their tickets to locals. He said StubHub, which is in the process of being bought by eBay for $310 million, opposes any restriction on ticket sales.

"Who's to say your fan base lives only in a certain area code?" he asked.

Rhonda Park of Kansas City was one of several football fans around the country who contacted the Globe after it reported on the Chargers' locals-only policy last week. She said teams should be required to sell tickets to fans of the opposing team.

"This is not right," she said of the locals-only policies. "I am a true Kansas City Chiefs fan and if they were to do that I would be ashamed of my team and city."

Frank, the Patriots fan from Tewksbury, said she has no plans to go to the Colts game but is hoping to watch the Patriots play in the Super Bowl in Miami, where her daughter lives.

"I have less fear of the Colts than I did of the Chargers," she said.

Bruce Mohl can be reached at mohl@globe.com.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES