They're the toughest tickets going

Wrestling: `Smackdown' seats prove hard to pin down, except at a premium price.

January 25, 2000|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,SUN STAFF

Sure, Baltimore, you could watch "WWF Smackdown" on UPN Thursday night (like you do every week, admit it), but there's nothing like actually being in the arena to experience the scripted mayhem of the World Wrestling Federation.

Getting into Baltimore Arena for the show's taping tonight, however, may be more difficult than escaping from Mankind's chokehold -- not to mention as expensive as a year of basic cable. Tickets for the event went on sale Nov. 13, and the 12,000-seat building was sold out before Christmas. These days, ticket brokers say, ringside seats originally priced at $35 are being scalped for as much as $300 each.

What about the cheap seats? The cheapest face-value tickets brokers handle are the $25 seats, and those are going for $100. And word is you won't find even the faraway $17 seats for less.

"There's been strong demand for it," said Pete Jacobson, president of Executive Tickets, a local ticket broker.

By comparison, a $60 seat for the two most popular Ravens home games -- against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns -- was scalped for $300-$350, with the $20 seats going for $75-95.

The WWF's only real competition as the hottest ticket in town is the Britney Spears concert at the arena in March, Jacobson said. It was easier, in fact, to get tickets to the sold-out debut concerts of new Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conductor Yuri Temirkanov this past weekend than to the WWF show.

While one might assume the makeup of the audiences for the WWF and BSO would be vastly different, it appears there may be some crossover.

"Maybe this sounds snobby, but I am amazed at the people who call and want to buy tickets," said Edie Brown, director of public relations at the arena. "It isn't what a lot of people describe as a `typical wrestling fan.' It really cuts across all sort of socio-economic paths, from CEOs of companies on down."

The wrestling audience, however, can be fickle. Just a few years ago, World Championship Wrestling, the WWF's rival, was a much tougher ticket here. Now the roles are reversed.

The pro wrestling business in general is extremely cyclical, as ticket sales in Baltimore have reflected.

Crowds were good when wrestling was a monthly event in the '70s and packed houses became the norm in the mid-to-late '80s when Hulk Hogan's "Hulkamania" was running wild. But interest waned in the early '90s, with some arena wrestling shows drawing as few as 1,000 fans. Now, business is hotter than ever.

If you can't get -- or can't afford -- a ticket for tonight, fear not. At least two more WWF television events are scheduled for the arena this year, one as soon as May. And if the body-slamming, crotch-grabbing antics of the WWF are just too low-brow for your taste? Some seats for this weekend's BSO concerts are still available.

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