Get ready to pay, NFL fans

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:34 AM ET

It may seem like quite a price for an extra down and the potential comfort of a roof overhead.

But Toronto football fans who would rather watch the NFL than the CFL, and not travel to Buffalo to do so, will pay big-league prices for the privilege.

As expected, ticket prices announced yesterday for the eight-game series in Toronto will be steep. At an average cost of $183 when they go on sale in two weeks, the ducats are more than triple the $51 average to see the same team play at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Moreover, the average price is double that of the $90 US it costs to see the New England Patriots, currently the highest price in the league. The league average in 2007 was $67.

"We were overwhelmed by the response," said Phil Lind, vice-chairman of Rogers Communications which, along with Larry Tanenbaum, partnered with the Bills for the series.

With 180,000 people reported to have signed up on the Toronto group's website, plus Bills and Argos season-ticket holders eligible, the games are expected to sell out even if buyers do a double take at the cost.

Prices range from $55 for a small percentage of seats tucked into the upper corners of the Rogers Centre to $295 for good seats in the lower bowl. (And even those aren't the most expensive, as suite prices have yet to be released.)

To get the announced prices, fans must opt for all eight games and pay up front. There is also an option to select a three-game package for slightly more.

"That's a lot to go watch (Steelers quarterback) Ben Roethlisberger run out for a couple of series in a pre-season game," said one Bills season-ticket holder, referring to the Aug. 14 pre-season game that kicks off the series. The second game is against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 7.

As a comparison, the Bills season-ticket holder is paying $493 US for eight games at the Ralph (seven regular, one pre-season). A comparable seat here costs $295 Cdn per game.

The prices should come as no surprise, however. Rogers is paying $78 million for the eight-game package and isn't intending to lose money. And the reason the Bills are coming here in the first place is to add to their revenue base.

There's another benefit from the high costs: If the games sell out, as expected, it will immediately catch the attention of NFL power brokers which will add to the attractiveness of future games here.

While Bills season-ticket holders aren't obligated to buy the Toronto games, the move into the southern Ontario market hasn't hurt sales in Buffalo. Team officials said this week that the team has topped 49,000 season tickets, up from 48,236 in 2007.

Tickets go on sale the week of May 19 to Argos and Bills season-ticket holders and those who signed up on www.billsintoronto.com.


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