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My Love for Banning Smokers: Cavaliers at Bulls

23 April 2010 3 Comments

Over the last few years, smokers attending sporting events have gradually been banished from the arena in order to smoke. First, they were removed from their seats. Second, they could no longer smoke in concourses and had special smoking sections. Third, they were required to smoke outside of the stadium entirely. Not only is banning smokers better for all of the non-smokers in the stadium, but the outside smoking sections have definite advantages for all fans – smoker or not.

Case in point was last month when I attended the NCAA Tournament at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Smokers were required to exit the Bradley Center. However, they did not police the “smoking” section so fans could walk to bars and restaurants in between all of the games if they wanted – even though this was against arena policy.

This was the first benefit of these outdoor smoking sections. Then tonight there was a major second benefit. In my ticket buying guide, I have a section called “Street Smarts.” It says I have bought invalid tickets on three occasions. I also write that the main culprit of invalid tickets are probably the fans themselves – they could enter the venue, leave early for some random reason then try to sell their “unused” ticket to an unsuspecting fan where the “invalid” ticket still has street value.

Beg, Borrow and Deal
As I wrote this morning, I was hoping to pay a fraction of face value for a lower level seat for tonight’s Bulls game. As I arrived at the United Center, there were plenty of tickets available. This past winter I paid $30 and $40 for lower level seats so I wanted to pay a similar price tonight. I ran into the ticket broker I bought Chicago Blackhawks tickets from last Sunday. He had a ticket in the lower level for $60. He said it was about ½ price of face value.

Next, I found some fans with an upper level single, but they wanted $40 for it which was too much for me. I was willing to pay $20 for an upper level seat and $40 for a lower level seat.

Third, I found a young, punky looking couple who had two $12 seats. The same seats I bought for Sunday’s Game 4 and the only seats I buy ahead of time for the Bulls. At first I offered them $10 for both. When they turned me down I raised my price to $10 for one. They wanted $35 for both but accepted my $10 after I told them I could buy a lower level seat for $20.

But the joke was on me. Right before I bought the ticket the guy said, “We already went in.” However, I did not think he meant he already went in on this ticket so even thought I thought I should ask him what he meant I chose not to.

I was now concerned and felt I had a 95% chance to be denied entrance as I entered the arena. And, sure enough, my ticket was invalid as the woman scanned my ticket. I had officially bought my fourth invalid ticket. The woman asked me if I had already left the arena. I told her no and that my friend had given me the ticket. She called over her manager. The manager asked me multiple times why I had left the arena. It appeared that if I gave her a legitimate reason she would let me back in. However, I could not come up with a good enough reason. But, I did say that I received the ticket from a friend and that he must have handed me the wrong ticket through the gate (there have been many times where I handed a friend a ticket through the gate). She believed my story and gave me the ticket back.

As I left the gate, I first looked for the couple who sold me the ticket, but could not find them. Then I thought “SMOKERS!” The most legitimate reason to leave the United Center and re-enter would be to smoke a cigarette. The United Center’s smoking section is outside of Gates 5 & 6. Yet, rather than stamp your ticket and your hand (as the Bradley Center does), the United Center’s policy is to scan you “out” of the arena. One United Center employee scans your ticket as you leave. You then enter the main gate where the other ticket takers scan your ticket to allow you back in the building.

The flaw here is what if you forget to be scanned out? Will they no longer let you back in? I decided to test my theory that I could get in to the United Center with my invalid ticket.

I entered at Gate 5. And, to no surprise, the ticket scanner did not accept my ticket. The woman asked me the same question the other woman did, “Why did you leave the arena?” I told her I went out for a cigarette. When she asked if I was “scanned out,” I responded that I did not realize I needed to be scanned out. She accepted that answer as valid and let me in.

Smoking Section Advice for the United Center
All venues that allow smoking outside should adopt the policy the NCAA Tournament uses for their games. Remember for the NCAA Tournament two games are usually played for one ticket. Thus, if my team played in the first game and I had no interest in the second game I could leave and “resell” my ticket to an unsuspecting fan of the second game. However, the NCAA not only scans your ticket to check its validity but also rips the ticket the old fashioned way. This way stadium management, and more importantly, fans buying tickets know the tickets have not been used already.

This policy should be adopted for all venues. The main issue with buying tickets on the street is not the ticket scalpers. It’s the fans who resell their tickets after they already entered to recoup some money. The fans are typically the scammers and not the actual ticket scalper. The ticket scalper is just trying to make a few bucks on the secondary ticket market.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls Game 3
The Bulls avoided the four-game sweep by defeating the Cavaliers tonight 108-106. The Bulls held a 21-point lead with 7:37 left in the third quarter. That lead dwindled down to one point with three seconds left but the Bulls held on after Anthony Park missed the final shot of the game.

Derrick Rose scored 31 points and Kirk Hinrich had 27 in tonight’s game. This was only the third playoff game for the Bulls where both starting point guards scored 25 points or more. In 1988, Michael Jordan scored 36 and Sam Vincent scored 31 versus the Detroit Pistons. In 1973, Jerry Sloan scored 27 and Norm Van Lier scored 26 versus the Los Angeles Lakers.


  • armando said:

    that is pretty amazing. i wonder if you can just obtain invalid tickets for free somewhere and then go in on the smoker loophole.

  • Eric said:

    As someone who works at one of these venues, I can tell you that being white will get you a long way. It’s sad, but you don’t know how many times I’ve gotten the “smoking” excuse with my manager right behind me. Nine times out of ten, “smoking” will get you back in if you’re white, and get you sent packing if you’re black.

    Also, a tip–if you’re one of these fans, just scan yourselves out. You can recoup so much money and be a decent person if you just scan yourselves out before you sell your ticket. You get your money back AND someone gets to see the show.

  • Ultimate Sports Fan (author) said:

    Eric – Thanks for the tip. How would a regular fan “scan themselves out” of the arena. Doesn’t a venue employee need to scan them out?

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