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Indiana fans frustrated by brutal Ticketmaster experience, leave box office empty-handed for NBA All-Star Saturday
10,500 tickets to NBA All-Star Saturday night in Indy were available Monday to locals and sold quickly. Here's what that experience was like.
A line at the box office was more than an hour in the making and extended nearly to the parking lot of Gate 6 as the clock approached 2:00 p.m. local time.
Monday was a big day for basketball fans in a basketball state.
The Indiana Pacers worked closely with the NBA and pushed to hold NBA All-Star Saturday night in February at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, rather than their own Gainbridge Fieldhouse in order to welcome more fans — especially Indy fans — to at least one of the big events during this weekend.
And so on Monday at 2 p.m., the first batch of tickets (10,500) went live and were restricted to Indiana residents.
However, the whole process runs through the Ticketmaster engine and if you’ve been following, especially months ago during pre-sales for Taylor Swift, it’s been one giant headache. Repeatedly.
Those pains for high-demand tickets were felt by locals who logged on or opened up the Ticketmaster app on their phone, and by those at the box office — which is what I suggested because you can avoid paying those ridiculous Ticketmaster fees.
At the southeast corner of Lucas Oil Stadium, more than 60 folks were in line waiting for it to open for business when I arrived.
I was there to check it out — and then I spent more than an hour experiencing what fellow NBA fans experienced.
We were all lined up behind window 4, the only one that was opened. Window 6 opened about three minutes in and helped, but they both were processing through Ticketmaster just like buyers at work and at home.
I only saw four purchases made over the first 20 minutes. One of the couples explained the holdup was because they’d choose the tickets to buy at the window, then they would be gone. And that was the ongoing challenge once again on Ticketmaster.
Meanwhile, it was clear very soon that this was not going well. That most would be turned away without seats. So I also opened up the app.
After clearing the queue, which did not take long for me while I was in line, then there would be a list of tickets. And you could select based on how many seats you wanted to purchase, 1 to 8. Considering the rarity of the event in Indy leading to such a demand for affordable tickets, they should have limited it more — to just two tickets per sale. That way more buyers would have had success.
Nonetheless, you’d select seats and it would take about 10 seconds. Then return an error saying those specific seats had been claimed, so try again.
Just like was being said at the ticket window.
It was a vicious loop that I was in for more than 100 tries. I lost count.
But it’s what was most frustrating — the false hope. It would’ve been been far better to get stuck in queue and never had a chance to buy. How about a ticket raffle, anyway?
Issues like this — disappointed and frustrated locals unable to be involved with the event — is why CEO Rick Fuson and the Pacers held off for so long on pursing All-Star Weekend. It’s an NBA event run by the NBA with some influence from the local team and host committee.
I wish that I emphasized that more in my previous stories, along with how not to get your expectations up. Yes, a batch of tickets would be available for local residents but these aren’t going to be lower-level or anything close. There were some in line who were disappointed these were only 600 level tickets — the highest in the building.
I’m thinking of course they are considering the prices ($49 to $79), but you know what, that messaging could have been conveyed better. The mindset needs to be that the possible tickets get fans in the door to a once-in-a-lifetime event — rather than ‘I’m going to be right by the team benches and get to see LeBron up close.’
Ultimately, it’s a corporate event. But if you’re willing to spend five figures, then yes, tickets to most of the events are possible.
Back to the line trailing behind windows 4 and 6 at the box office. This is some real boots-on-the-ground reporting, y’all.
By 2:43 p.m., two members of build security in uniform made their way outside. The line had extended to the parking lot, some were shouting for the process to hurry up and for more than two windows to be opened.
Others had already given up. It was also very toasty outside, pushing 90 degrees.
On the left side of the photo above, there was another box office window opened and it confused some. But it was exclusively for members of CSC Security to pick up their paycheck.
By this time, I said screw it and switched to see if I could land something … anything … and set my filter to one ticket rather than six, four or two. (I was hoping to land a couple tickets for family and, if lucky enough, two more to give away to paid subscribers.)
After countless more tries, including some that resulted in no tickets being shown as available for about 30 seconds, I finally welcomed a new screen on my iPhone that saw its battery percentage drop from 100% to 83% during this whole process.
Success. For just one ticket. It was for $79.
But wait, there’s more. This is Ticketmaster, remember.
So there was a $5 order processing fee and $11.10 for a service fee, which made one ticket $95.10.
Now it was 2:53 p.m. A couple fans left window 4 in disgust, turned to others in line to inform them that the tickets were gone. By my estimation, less than 20 purchases were completed in nearly an hour at the box office. There must’ve been another 25 people ahead of me.
Two minutes later, at 2:55 p.m., a lady at window 6 spoke into her microphone and announced that it was over. They were sold out.
Here’s some of the reactions I received from followers and subscribers:
Andrew: Was one of the first in the queue on Ticketmaster and tried for over an hour only to be told every time that the seats were already taken.
Alex: Great idea ruined by scalpers. Needed to be more limitations. Possibly even requiring in person purchase with Indiana ID
Mike: Good luck to whoever scored some. Got through and was able to order at 2:02. Only thing available was nose bleeds. Rather watch on TV than sit up there. Doesn’t seem right that was only available within 2 minutes.
Jim: Hopped on Ticketmaster at 1:58, was put in the queue at 2:01, ran through the queue in less than 1 minute, grabbed the first tickets I saw in a low row and checked out immediately. Received my confirmation at 2:03. 5 minute process, must have been my lucky day!
Jeff: I'm sure the bots/brokers/scalpers had no issues at all.
David: No "fan" needs 8 tickets. There has to be much better ways of doing this - what a joke. I finally got in after 15 minutes in the queue. And every time I selected tickets I get the "another fan beat you to these tickets" - about 30 times - why keep showing tickets are already sold. Absolute nightmare and quite the scam inflicted on NBA fans in Indiana.
E: I got *lucky* getting 3 individual tickets in the same section after every single attempt to get 3 anywhere suddenly disappeared on the buy attempts. Happy to be going but an absolute shit show.
Matthew: Didn’t get through the queue until 2:20 but managed to grab 3 for $105 total after fees.
It’s unclear what’s next and if any more tickets will be made available to the public. However, there will be tickets available to other events, like Fan Fest at the convention center, the Celebrity Game, etc.
Demand was huge, which is a great thing, but the level of execution left a lot to be desired and learned from.