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Rodeo Ticket Wars

Houston Rodeo's ticket wars raise questions: Is scholarship money thrown away in outdated fight?

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In spite of the growing popularity of ticket reselling sites like StubHub, the Houston Rodeo will continue its fight against the secondary ticket market. RodeoHouston/Facebook

With concert sales in full swing, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is busy rustlin' up its biggest foe . . . ticket scalpers.

While reselling tickets remains perfectly legal, rodeo officials say the so-called "secondary market" wrecks havoc on the event's mission of offering affordable prices. As such, HLSR employees spend countless hours smoking out casual scalpers and professional ticket brokers alike, doing everything from tracing IP addresses to staging covert buy-back schemes.

Rodeo chief operating officer Leroy Shafer tells CultureMap his team bans roughly 40 ticket brokers each year. He says season passes, with their prime seating locations, are the main targets for ticket brokers.

"Brokers will do their darndest to get good seats, especially to the hot shows," he says. "And, as we have in the past, we'll keep from selling to them."

"If 'behind the times' means we're not greedy, then I suppose we're behind the times." 

But with the rise of mammoth online ticket marketplaces like StubHub — which officially partners with the Houston Astros and the University of Texas — the once-underground world of ticket reselling has gone mainstream, rivaling and even outpacing the traditional box office as a first stop for fans. Like most major sports teams, the Houston Rockets have their own secondary ticket marketplace with Flash Seats.

Several Houston ticket brokers, who request anonymity, tell CultureMap that the rodeo is "behind the times" for not embracing the lucrative and ever-growing secondary market. They note that the rodeo's recent issues with Ticketmaster online sales only pushed customer to online sites already filled with tickets offered by individual fans and brokers.

Worse, one broker notes that the Rodeo is only hurting its own mission by refusing to embrace the lucrative secondary market, essentially tossing away money that could fund more scholarships.

Shafer, however, remains committed to keeping rodeo ticket prices "low" through corporate partnerships and a large staff of volunteers. He vows to continue fighting scalpers, who already are charging hundreds and even thousands of dollars for rodeo concert tickets on StubHub and other similar sites.

"If 'behind the times' means we're not greedy, then I suppose we're behind the times," Shafer says.

"But guess what? We sold 1.3 million rodeo concert tickets last year to become one of the biggest music series in North America . . . We're going to keep doing the same thing we have for years."

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