2 strikes and they’re out: Bill backed by Brewers would allow team to ban repeat scalpers

By Ryan J. Foley, AP
Monday, January 11, 2010

Brewers pitch bill to catch ticket scalpers

MADISON, Wis. — Attention annoying ticket scalpers outside Miller Park: The Brew Crew is coming after you.

The Milwaukee Brewers baseball club is lobbying Wisconsin lawmakers to pass a bill that would make it easier for the team to prosecute ticket resellers who bother fans outside the stadium.

Team officials say scalpers are using increasingly aggressive tactics, stalking potential buyers, pestering families as they enter the stadium and hopping on tour buses as they arrive at the park. They say they receive complaints nearly every game about the activity, which hurts their attempts to provide a fan-friendly experience.

The Brewers and city of Milwaukee in 2002 designated an area next to Helfaer Field, the youth baseball diamond outside Miller Park, as the only location for fans to buy and sell tickets. Anyone selling outside that zone are warned, and can eventually be cited for trespassing and kicked off stadium grounds.

The problem is that, under state law, municipalities cannot regulate ticket scalping as long as tickets are sold for face value or less. That means judges have thrown out citations that have been issued to a number of repeat offenders, said Tyler Barnes, the club’s vice president of communications.

A proposal by Sen. Jim Sullivan of Wauwatosa and Rep. Josh Zepnick of Milwaukee would make clear municipalities could create and enforce such zones, regardless of the price scalpers are charging. Violators could be fined up to $500 and banned from venues until their cases are resolved. After a second citation, they could be permanently banned.

“We’re not going to allow people to take away from the experience of going to a game with your family because you are going to be harassed by heavy-handed sales tactics,” said Sullivan, a big Brewers fan who has a picture of Miller Park inside his Capitol office. “There’s a handful of specific, frequent flier violators on this.”

A number of college and professional sports venues have established similar zones, such as the RBC Center in North Carolina and PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

The Brewers are pushing the change with the help of five lobbyists, including vice president Marti Wronski and director of event services Matt Kenny, who both registered to lobby last week. But the bill would also apply to venues for the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Badgers, Milwaukee Bucks and others that want to create resale zones.

Barnes said that in addition to giving fans an organized area to buy and sell tickets, the zones deter the small number of scam artists who sell used or fake tickets. One scam involves scalpers who enter the game to get memorabilia, such as a free bobblehead, and then resell their used tickets.

In 2008, the city of Green Bay created a similar zone outside Lambeau Field after several fans complained they were duped into buying counterfeit Packers tickets. Ticket brokers who sell above face value have to register with the city and get an $800 annual permit. Season ticket holders can unload tickets there without a permit.

Those using the zone are reporting unauthorized scalpers to police, and “that seems to have taken care of that problem pretty well,” said Green Bay Police Lt. Jeff Engelbrecht.

Bradley Center spokesman Evan Zeppos said arena employees patrol entrances to make sure ticket resellers are not bothering fans. He said the Bradley Center, home to the Bucks and Marquette basketball, had not seen the proposal but backed the concept.

“We’re always concerned about it because we want to help ensure an enjoyable fan experience,” he said. “While we’d need to analyze the actual language, it’s likely the direction we’d like to see the law go.”

Don Nelson, a University of Wisconsin-Madison lobbyist, said scalpers have not been a problem outside Camp Randall or the Kohl Center and the university has no plans to designate ticket resale zones. But he said the university would support the bill in case “in the future we find a necessity for this.”

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