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01-21-2011, 11:06 PM
Fans paying a premium for AFC title game tickets

By Jeremy Boren
Saturday, January 22, 2011

Todd Hutson's job is to provide food, shelter and a comfortable bus ride to 55 New York Jets fans with tickets to Sunday's AFC Championship at Heinz Field.

Whether the Gang Green groupies will be happy on the nine-hour ride home is out of his control.

"Hopefully, if the Jets are celebrating, we'll stay after the game and have a few more beers," he said. "If not, then we'll all be climbing on to a very upset bus."

Most of those making the trip from New York paid $300 to $500 for tickets and up to $345 for a travel package that includes a Sunday night hotel stay, beer, burgers and hot dogs at a tailgate party with satellite TV to watch the 3 p.m. Bears-Packers NFC Championship in the parking lot.

It's a slice of the $19 million in spending Sunday night's game is expected to bring to Pittsburgh, with fans paying an average of $422 a ticket 22 percent higher than the last home AFC Championship game in 2009.

Fans are willing to pay.

Steelers season-ticket holder Olindo Pasquarelli, 35, of Scott had no trouble selling his tickets for two seats in Section 227 for $700.

"I wasn't trying to lump anybody, and that's why I knew they were going to go fast," he said.

The owner of Double Take Automotive on Banksville Road, Pasquarelli is traveling with family on a long-planned trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., this weekend, so he won't be in town to attend the game.

Instead of using Craig's List, StubHub or the Steelers Ticket Exchange to list his tickets among the thousands for sale, he programmed his business's electronic billboard Wednesday to display "two Steelers tickets available."

In four hours, he had 20 inquiries.

"It kind of stinks, but we already have reservations at a Steelers bar in Orlando," he said.

The Steelers-Jets match-up is the highest-selling AFC Championship game and is on track to join the top six best-selling NFL games in StubHub's 11-year history, said spokesman Glenn Lehrman.

As of Friday, there were some $230 tickets for sale to the Steelers-Jets game. The highest price paid so far was $1,642 a ticket. Those willing to buy at the last minute could snag some bargains.

"Normally, we see ticket prices go down on game day, so if people are willing to wait it out, you can usually find good deals," Lehrman said.

He said some fans stand near the stadium browsing ticket prices on smartphones until game time. StubHub, owned by eBay, has a "last-minute services" desk near the stadium so fans can pick up their tickets.

Some elected officials won't have to go to all that trouble or expense.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato used a free ticket from the Sports & Exhibition Authority to attend the Steelers-Ravens divisional playoff last Saturday, said spokesman Kevin Evanto. Onorato plans to use a freebie again Sunday.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will use a free ticket from the SEA for Sunday's game, spokeswoman Joanna Doven said. He did not attend Saturday's game.

SEA tickets to the Steelers-Ravens game were made available to City Council President Darlene Harris; state Sen. Wayne Fontana; state Rep. Jake Wheatley; former state Sen. Sean Logan; former Mayor Sophie Masloff; North Side developer Anthony J. Ross; Shadyside psychiatrist Edie Shapira; Downtown tax attorney Mike Danovitz; John Jackson III, vice president of Laborers Labor Union Local No. 373; and Mike Dunleavy, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 5.

All are members of either the authority or its sister agency, the Stadium Authority, except for Wheatley, who is a former Stadium Authority member. Tickets were given to members of the Army 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command.

The SEA gave away 42 tickets to the Steelers-Ravens game. Officials did not provide information about tickets to Sunday's game.

Most of the tickets are for seats in the upper-deck sections of 521 to 525, but some are for a suite.

Jeremy Boren can be reached at jboren@tribweb.com or 412-320-7935.

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