On Tuesday night, Madison Square Garden re-opened its doors to basketball fans for the first time since last March. The Knicks played host to the Warriors in front of roughly 2,000 fans. One might have assumed with the State of New York restricting attendance to 10% of venue capacity that the demand for tickets—and thus pricing on the secondary market—would have been off the charts in the basketball-crazed city. Remember, the Knicks are having their best season, from a win-percentage standpoint, in nine years. But that was not the case. Tickets to Tuesday night’s game could have been bought on SeatGeek in the hours leading up to the game for just 25% more ($129) than fans paid to get in to last season’s home opener ($104). The secondary marketplace reported more of the same last night. In fact, the get-in price to see the Knicks play the Kings ($70) was actually below what fans paid to get in the door of the second home game of the 2019-2020 season ($86)—a game that had nearly 18,000 more seats available.
Our Take: It’s fair to assume COVID-19 is contributing to the relatively tempered demand that currently exists for Knicks tickets. There is a portion of the fan base simply uncomfortable gathering in a stadium environment with the pandemic still raging on—even if those in attendance are forced to produce a negative test to enter. But Patrick Ryan says the loss of that demographic alone does not explain why secondary market ticket prices remain “normal” at a time when there is so much less inventory available. The Eventellect co-founder explained the lack of tourists in town and the absence of the corporate sales are also negatively impacting demand (and ultimately pricing).
The Knicks draw a larger percentage of out-of-town fans than teams in neighboring markets. According to SeatGeek, 27% of those who bought tickets to see the perennial loser play last season hailed from outside the tristate area. By comparison, just 15-20% of fans attending 76ers and Islanders games were visiting. It makes sense with fewer tourists in NYC that there would be fewer people looking to buy Knicks tickets on the secondary marketplace. For what it’s worth, Tourism Economics says tourism spending in New York City is down 72% since the pandemic began (as of October).
The absence of the corporate hospitality buyer is another reason the scarcity in tickets hasn’t led to skyrocketing prices. In a typical year before the pandemic, a “huge chunk of Knicks season ticket holders are corporations and people who use the tickets mainly to take clients out,” Ryan said.
That includes more than 90% of suite holders, according to a former high ranking MSG executive. But with business still largely taking place in remote environments, there are significantly less corporate clientele eating up seats (and driving prices up).
It should also be noted that 3.57 million New Yorkers fled the city in 2020, too. While NYC technically only suffered a net loss of 70,000 people, Unacast suggests those who left were replaced by lower income earners—not necessarily your NBA ticket buying demographic.
Secondary market supply was always going to be limited with attendance capped at 10% of capacity. But Ryan said there is even a smaller percentage of tickets hitting resale sites than usual this year, “keeping the floor of the market quite a bit higher than it otherwise would be [considering the headwinds cited].” That’s because “oftentimes at this point in the season, fans have given up on their team and are liquidating seats. That is absolutely not happening.” You also do not have season-ticket holders “choking down four-plus tickets to 41 games this year.” Ryan said with limitations on inventory, teams are unable to really offer fans more seats than they are going to use, and so less are hitting the secondary marketplaces.
For those wondering about the Nets, the team has yet to make individual game tickets available to the public. So, naturally, there is no inventory available on the secondary market. Single-game Nets tickets will go on sale March 1.