College basketball returns to uptown Charlotte this weekend as the Spectrum Center hosts the first- and second-round NCAA tournament games. Tickets to see the highly anticipated March Madness matchups, however, aren’t so easy to come by.
Charlotte is one of the eight host cities for the first round of the NCAA tournament this year, and UNC, Virginia, Creighton, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Providence, Lipscomb and UMBC will all be in town for the Friday and Sunday games.
Unsurprisingly, ticket demand is already is high, and so are prices.
On the official ticket exchange, the cheapest ticket available is $80 for Session 1 (Texas A&M/Providence and UNC/Lipscomb) on the NCAA Ticket Exchange, the only secondary-ticket marketplace that is guaranteed and approved by the NCAA. The site allows sellers to list their tickets for free or at any price at or above face value.
Cheap tickets are also still available on third-party sites, including StubHub, where first-round single game tickets are going for as low as $64.50, or at Vivid Seats, where first-round game tickets are starting at $55.
Overall, average asking price on the secondary market for the games at the Spectrum Center this weekend is $259, according to TicketIQ, which tracks 90 percent of the country’s secondary ticket market. As of Monday afternoon, there were about 1,700 tickets remaining on the secondary market.
Although Charlotte’s average ticket price sounds costly, it falls about in the middle price range of the eight host cities (5th.) Boise is currently the most expensive, with an average price of $433, and San Diego is the cheapest, with an average asking price of $152, TicketIQ said Monday.
Charlotte’s average ticket price is also down from pre-Selection Sunday prices. On Friday morning, the average price was $341.
There will be four tournament games Friday in Charlotte and two more on Sunday, with North Carolina playing Lipscomb at 2:45 p.m. Friday and Virginia facing UMBC in the nightcap at 9:20 p.m. Both UNC and Virginia are favored to survive the weekend’s games and advance to the Sweet 16.
Of course, for fans who want to catch some basketball action but avoid steep ticket prices altogether, Thursday’s 40-minute practice sessions that run from 11 a.m.-6:20 p.m. at the Spectrum Center are open to the public. (UNC practices from 1:15 p.m.-1:55 p.m.; Virginia practices from 4:10 p.m.-4:50 p.m.)
Uptown impact and HB2
It may be tough to find a place to stay in uptown Charlotte this weekend, too. According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, the city’s visitor arm, bookings are up 19 percent this weekend compared with the same period last year (During the third weekend of March last year, Charlotte hosted a major convention for Herbalife that drew about 3,500 people.)
“Room demand is looking strong for us,” spokeswoman Laura White said of the nearly 5,300 hotel rooms in uptown Charlotte.
Big events like the NCAA tournament tend to provide a boost for uptown hotels and businesses (especially on a weekend like the upcoming one, which happens to also be St. Patrick’s Day.)
The 2008 NCAA basketball tournament drew $7.3 million in direct spending in Charlotte, and had an overall economic impact of $11 million, according to the CRVA. Charlotte has hosted NCAA tournament games since then (including in 2015), but 2008 is the most recent year for which the CRVA has survey data from the NCAA, White said.
With all the hoopla surrounding this weekend’s March Madness uptown, it may be easy to forget that Charlotte almost missed out on hosting the games altogether.
In September 2016, the NCAA opted to pull championship events from North Carolina over the association’s opposition to House Bill 2, the controversial law restricting transgender bathroom access and limiting legal rights for LGBT individuals. The first- and second-round NCAA men’s tournament games were moved from Greensboro to Greenville, S.C., for instance.
But following the repeal of HB2 last spring, the NCAA informed Charlotte it could still host the first- and second-rounds of the men’s tournament.