Cloudy transparency leads to ticket price spike in Tennessee

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Taxpayer-funded arenas are limiting tickets available for sale, which intentionally raises prices.

Nashville’s News Channel 5, for example, reported organizers behind a Justin Bieber concert at Nashville Bridgestone Arena last year made just 1,000 out of nearly 14,000 tickets available to the public. Scalpers raised prices to as much as $250, according to those reports.

“If more people knew how big of a problem this is, then it wouldn’t happen and there would be more tickets available, which makes it cheaper to fans,” said Logan Pratt, spokesman for the nonprofit Tennesseans for Ticketing Rights.

$1,000 REQUEST: Logan Pratt says Thompson-Boling Arena officials want to charge $1,000 for his open records request. Arena officials will not comment on the appropriateness of the fees.

The organization’s website describes it as a coalition of individuals, businesses and nonprofits that believe in fair-market principles and individual property rights concerning the live-event ticketing market.

Members of the public, Pratt said, still need to know more about the issue.

“A big chain of more transparency is needed. No one has given any attention to the issue,” he said.

Pratt said he submitted open-records requests for ticket manifests from various concerts at Tennessee’s three largest taxpayer-funded arenas — Bridgestone, FedEx Forum in Memphis and Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena.

Bridgestone officials, Pratt said, accommodated his request with only a $50 fee.

Logan Pratt

Pratt said Thompson-Boling officials, however, want to charge him $1,000, or $500 each, for ticket manifests from a Blake Shelton concert, as well as an American Idol concert.

“In their email back to us they explained, ‘Oh, we charge $25 an hour for this, and it will be this many pages times this.’ The costs are a bit extravagant and exaggerated,” Pratt said.

“We suspect it was an attempt to make us back off because in these records we may find that only a certain percentage of Blake Shelton tickets were made available to the public, and that’s not really something that they want to get out.”

Thompson-Boling spokesman Charles Primm told Tennessee Watchdog he was aware of Pratt’s request, but he also said he would not comment on the appropriateness of fees his office charges or Pratt’s comments about ticket access.

“In general the Tennessee Public Records Act allows the university to charge labor if a request is going to take a significant amount of time,” Primm said.

People in charge of these documents offer their own estimates of labor, based on how long it would take to gather them as well as their individual hourly pay rates. That’s how copying costs are determined, Primm said.

Pratt, meanwhile, told Tennessee Watchdog that FedEx Forum officials never responded to three open records, even though the law requires it.

FedEx Forum spokesman Jason Wallace said his office never received those three requests.

“I checked with other members of our front office who may have received the requests and no one received any requests from this person specifically,” Wallace said.

RECEIPT?: FedEx Forum officials in Memphis tell Tennessee Watchdog that they’ve never received Logan Pratt’s three open records requests.

Pratt, in response, said he never sent those three requests via certified mail, but he will do so with a fourth request.

“We sent the first request to the wrong office, the Memphis Sports Authority,” Pratt said.

“They said, ‘No, we don’t handle this. Send it to FedEx Forum,’ so that’s what we started doing.”

Pratt, who describes himself as someone who loves going to concerts and games, said he will continue seeking more records to help average people who share his interests.

“The average person can’t afford $500 to $600 tickets to a concert of an artist they want to see. This is really a fight for those people to allow them to have more access,” Pratt said.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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