The San Francisco 49ers’ return to the National Football Conference championship game for the first time since 1998, plus the presence of the New York Giants, has sent ticket prices soaring.
The average cost for the 49ers’ Jan. 22 home matchup with the Giants and quarterback Eli Manning was more than $650 on the secondary ticket market yesterday, according to TiqIQ, an event ticket aggregator that tracks listings from StubHub, EBay, TicketNetwork and TicketsNow. Face value for the seats range from $105-$380.
The prices are about 60 percent higher than for the American Football Conference championship game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens earlier the same day in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
“There’s definitely a bigger fever for the NFC game in terms of fan sentiment,” TiqIQ spokesman Chris Matcovich said in a telephone interview.
The 49ers are 2 1/2-point favorites against the Giants, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers, while the Ravens are seven-point underdogs at New England.
The Patriots, led by quarterback Tom Brady, are playing for a spot in the Super Bowl for the sixth time in 11 years, while the 49ers’ last appearance in the conference title game was 14 years ago.
San Francisco was in the NFC championship game 10 times in a 17-year span from 1982 through 1998 and won five Super Bowls behind quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. The Giants, meantime, have one of the National Football League’s biggest fan followings, said Sam Soni, the president of Atlanta-based ticket package specialist PrimeSport.
“It’s San Francisco being back and hosting a game of this caliber and you’re also seeing that there’s Giants fans all across the country and they’re seeing the Giants make a pretty impressive postseason run,” Soni said by telephone. “The magnitude of the game and two major markets are what the difference is when it comes to ticket sales.”
Sean Smith, a 34-year-old Giants fan from Bridgewater, New Jersey, said he jumped on StubHub’s website to buy NFC championship tickets with about two minutes left in last week’s 37-20 playoff win against the Green Bay Packers. He paid $420 per ticket to get seats for himself, his dad from Temecula, California, and his cousin from San Jose.
“They’re not field level, they’re up in the nosebleeds, but I’ve never been to Candlestick and it’s the Giants in the NFC championship, so price wasn’t an issue,” Smith, who sells software for CA Technologies, said in a telephone interview.
About 70 percent of ticket purchases for the NFC title game are from California and a combined 12 percent have come from New York and New Jersey, StubHub spokeswoman JoEllen Ferrer said, adding that the demand has been approximately twice as high as that for the AFC championship.
At PrimeSport, ticket prices for the NFC championship go from $308 to $2,750, while the range for the AFC title game is $209 to $1,443.
“New England is consistently a great supporter of football, this is just one of those things where they’ve had this game many times,” PrimeSport’s Soni said. “We see it in baseball all the time. When the New York Yankees are in the World Series as often as they are and then you get a new team like the Rangers or Giants in for the first time in many years, you get a heightened demand.”
The 49ers got the chance to host a second straight playoff game when the Giants upset the top-seeded Packers.
“Everybody thought the road was going to go through Lambeau,” 49ers quarterback Alex Smith told reporters this week. “I think everybody assumed the NFC championship game was going to get played there and look what happens.”
San Francisco now gets to host its first NFC title game since the 1997 season, when the 49ers were beaten 23-10 by the Packers and quarterback Brett Favre. The 49ers have a 5-5 record in conference championship appearances. The Giants are 4-0 in the NFC championship game.
Ticket costs for the past two NFC championship games were among the highest in history, and this year’s average price may continue to rise as kickoff approaches. The average ticket price for last year’s game at Chicago’s Soldier Field between the Packers and Bears was $820. The price the previous year at the New Orleans Superdome for the Saints’ first NFC title game appearance was $784, according to TiqIQ.
“There’s a big sense that this is special,” 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York said on a conference call with reporters. “I’ve met a lot of folks wearing Niners gear that they haven’t busted out of their closet in 10 years. It’s great to see that excitement.”