The hottest ticket in town Tuesday was for the Lightning at Raymond James Stadium.
Never mind that there haven’t been tickets sold for much of anything for the past six months — certainly not for a sports event at a stadium or arena. And these were free.
Fans riding high off the team’s Stanley Cup victory on Monday night, logged on to Ticketmaster.com to wait in a digital queue that as of 1:01 p.m., one minute after tickets became available, had at least 2,000 people waiting in line, according to screen shots.
It’s unclear exactly how many lucky fans were able to snag a ticket for the celebration, but 90 minutes later, the website said the free event was “sold out.”
The party starts at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. A spokesman for the Lightning said the plan was to have 15,000 people in the stands.
Shelby Akos from Riverview said she logged onto Ticketmaster at 12:30 and waited on the site for nearly an hour and a half before she was booted off without tickets, but her story had a happy ending.
“I’d seen people selling them for $350 at that point and it was really upsetting. They never even wanted to go, they just took them to make a profit,” Akos said. “But I looked on some Lightning Facebook pages I’m part of and a girl posted that she had an extra ticket and no one to go with, so I messaged her. We’re going together."
Akos said that right after the stranger agreed to give her the ticket for free, a man left a Facebook comment offering to pay for it. The stranger still gave it to her without charging.
“This celebration is the one thing the real fans have all looked forward to,” Akos said. And with the Lightning playing their season in a bubble without fans due to the coronavirus, “we were afraid there wouldn’t be something like this.”
The free tickets began appearing on Craigslist and Ebay quickly after they were distributed through Ticketmaster.
The hosts of the Pat and Aaron Show on Tampa Bay sports talk station WDAE 620-AM called one Craigslist scalper live on the air during Tuesday’s broadcast and confronted him.
The scalper said he was in New York and had listed the tickets for $300.
“A lot of people can’t get them now and I got some and I’m trying to make a couple of bucks,” the caller said. “If it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else. ... I’m a businessman trying to make a couple bucks."
”It’s a d--k move," replied co-host Aaron Jacobson. “I don’t know where anyone gets off trying to take advantage of people. This city has not seen a championship since 2004, the Stanley Cup. ... Who thinks like that?”
The ticket situation “was crazy,” said Chris Hall, an Orlando resident who traveled to Tampa to watch Game 5 with fans on a big screen outside Amalie Arena. He also tried to get free tickets to the party, but they were gone after he waited in the queue for over an hour. “I saw posts where people were selling them for hundreds of dollars. I’d probably pay $50."
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Fans said they were reporting the scalpers’ posts to Ebay and Craigslist. By late afternoon, the listings on those sites had mostly disappeared.
The Lightning boat parade on the downtown waterfront and the celebration at Raymond James Stadium will be televised live on Fox Sports Sun.
2020 Stanley Cup victory print: Lightning championship poster coming to Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times newspaper