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FOX 13 News 360: The steep price of Utah Jazz tickets

Posted at 10:06 PM, Jan 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 00:08:55-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz are as popular as ever. The current team has great players — including three 2021 All-Stars — and a winning record so far this season.

But can the “average Joe” afford to see a home game in person?

Ahead of a recent game, FOX 13 News asked Jazz fans at Vivint Arena how much they spent.

“Six hundred bucks,” said Carson Bottema.

Bottema lives in St. George and typically only attends a game or two each year. He figures if he’s going to drive five hours to get to the arena, he wants a great seat.

Zach Anderson and friends scored last-minute tickets on row 15 off the lower bowl for around $100 each.

Online, tickets typically range from as low as $20 for the so-called “nosebleed seats” to upwards of $1,000 or more for those close to the court.

“We believe that the Jazz games are affordable and accessible,” said Frank Zang, spokesperson for the Utah Jazz.

He elaborated on how the arena determines pricing, which varies from game to game.

“We look at markets in the NBA: What does Sacramento, what does Indiana charge? We look at other entertainment in the valley area: How much do those things cost? All of these are contributing factors to determining what the price is of a game, and that changes — day of the week, opponent, upper bowl, lower bowl. There are lots of things that contribute to determining what the price of the tickets are,” Zang said.

Some fans speculate that ticket prices have risen over the years to help cover the costs of highly paid players, such as Donovan Mitchell, whose current contract pays him a base of $163 million for five years.

To better understand where the money from ticket sales goes, FOX 13 News called upon Southern Utah State University professor of economics David Berri, who is also a past president of the North American Association of Sports Economists.

“About 40 to 50 percent goes to the players, and the rest goes to the team, and the NBA through collective bargaining fix the price with the player cost of 40-50 percent. And then everything else just goes to the owner," he said.

Berri says even NBA teams with losing records are generally profitable on account of television broadcast contracts. 

“Here’s the cool thing about sports from a team’s perspective: If the Jazz do a little worse, or much worse, they’ll see a little bit of drop off in demand, and they’ll see a little less revenue. But a big chunk of revenue comes from the national television deal, so that will stay the same of regardless how they do.”

The other thing that fuels profits, according to Berri, is the undying long-term loyalty fans typically have for major league teams, even in losing seasons.

Berri says consumers relate to sports teams differently than typical businesses and are quick to forgive even bad experiences. 

In the concourse of Vivint Arena, FOX 13 News met many fans who said they’ve never regretted spending a dollar on tickets, regardless of the final score.

“It changes everything once you come to a game and actually experience how it is. Like, you love the Jazz, you love how the culture is, you love everything about what’s going on here,” said Austin Clark.

Berri says high-priced tickets to NBA games are here to stay.

“The Jazz are reacting the way every business does. When people want their product, they drive up the price,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Jazz maintain that there are opportunities for fans to see the team play inexpensively, and for some, even free.

“We have free tickets that are given out through Junior Jazz programs or through our player donation program where the players have actually purchased the tickets and then we donate them to community groups as well," Zang said.