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Scoring Bucs tickets will be luck of the draw

Most Ticketmaster outlets will require cash for playoff tickets Tuesday. A lottery will determine fans' purchasing order.

By MARK ALBRIGHT

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 9, 2000


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Fewer than 8,000 tickets remain for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' playoff game Saturday against the Washington Redskins, and they go on sale Tuesday at 33 Ticketmaster outlets in the Tampa Bay area.

There's no need to camp out for a place in line because the order at the ticket window will be decided through a lottery. But you'll probably want to bring a wad of cash if you hope to buy a ticket because most locations won't accept credit cards.

Officials expect all of the tickets to be snapped up within 15 to 20 minutes of the 10 a.m. start.

The drill is virtually the same as when the Bucs distributed single-game tickets the last time they made the NFL playoffs, in 1997.

All season-ticket holders should have received their playoffs tickets in the mail already, Bucs officials say. The leftovers will not be offered by Ticketmaster over the Internet or the telephone Tuesday, so you can keep your speed dial at parade rest.

Why no e-commerce? The Bucs want to reward local fans who don't have season tickets. The team cannot restrict phone or cyber sales geographically. But it can limit the tickets to walk-up sales at Ticketmaster locations in the Tampa Bay area. So playoff tickets will not be sold anywhere else except at four Ticketmaster outlets in Bradenton, Palmetto, Estero and Fort Myers.

"We want these playoff tickets to go to our hard-core local fans, the people who were right there with us in the hot sun back in August," said Reggie Roberts, Bucs spokesman.

It's the way most NFL teams distribute single-game playoff tickets.

There's no doubt the game against the Redskins will be a sellout. Every Bucs home game has sold out the past three seasons.

It's impossible to say how many seats will be available Tuesday. The Bucs have been using the lure of playoff tickets to sell season tickets for next season. They won't say how many playoff tickets they have sold in connection with season-ticket purchases at recent Pick-a-Seat promotions at Raymond James Stadium.

"Pick-a-Seat has been so popular we added two more days," said Roberts. The final Pick-a-Seat promotion is scheduled for today from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Playoff tickets that remain after today will be sold at Ticketmaster beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Unlike 1997, the team will not be selling tickets at the stadium box office.

Ticketmaster's Marc Crawford said there's no reason to arrive at outlets earlier than about 9 a.m. The company will stage a drawing at each location at about 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes before sales begin, just as it does for big concerts such as the Backstreet Boys. The lottery determines your place in line, but does not guarantee you a ticket. Anyone who shows up too late for the first drawing will be part of a second drawing held before 10 a.m.

Ticketmaster is beginning to accept credit cards at a few outlets, but almost all of the outlets Tuesday will insist on cash for Bucs playoff tickets. For years, Ticketmaster has required cash at outlet sales to make its accounting with outlet operators and concert promoters simpler in case events are canceled.

Bucs playoffs tickets will cost $31, $42, $57 and $76, depending on the seats. Club seats are priced at $105, $190 and $265. Each person at least 12 years old in line can buy up to eight tickets. Ticketmaster will tack on a $4.25 per ticket service charge.

With so much cash in people's pockets, Ticketmaster promises additional security guards to augment normal store security at the outlets. Additionally, most outlets are in stores equipped with indoor ATMs for those who want to get cash on the spot.

Most bay area Ticketmaster locations changed in November when the company, a unit of Barry Diller's USA Networks Inc., which also owns St. Petersburg-based Home Shopping Network, gave up on an 18-month experiment withPublix Super Markets Inc.

Twenty Ticketmaster outlets subsequently set up in Kmart stores in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties will sell Bucs tickets Tuesday. There are no outlets in Hernando or Citrus counties.

Publix only wanted to staff Ticketmaster outlets in high-traffic stores. In the Tampa Bay region, that turned out to be 15 of its 79 supermarkets.

"It was a hassle with Publix because we had to tell people exactly which Publix we were in," said Sherry Dye, Ticketmaster district manager. "With Kmart we can say we're in every Kmart in those counties."

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