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With Cubs on the cusp, fans get ready to dig deep for Series tix

Writer Karen Stabiner, not wanting to be a jink, promises she will not watch the Cubs in any of the World Series games. / AP

Jay Bontempo is a man of modest means, but he is also a Cubs fan, and a Cubs fan knows sacrifice. And so, the 61-year-old service supervisor shelled out $1,500 to take his wife to Saturday’s game against the Dodgers.

If the Cubs return to Wrigley Field for a World Series game, Bontempo will dig deeper: he’s signed a contract with a ticket-broker friend to shell out $10,000 for two tickets if the Cubs dispatch the Dodgers and advance to the World Series for the first time since World War II.

“This is coming out of the kids’ inheritance,” said Bontempo, who grew up in Jefferson Park and can recall paying $2 for bleacher seats as a schoolboy — then staying after the game to collect trash at the ballpark in exchange for a general admission ticket for the next day.

“This is our year. I have got to do this. I could not not do this because of the money thing. I have waited my whole life for this. I learned to swear listening to my dad when we would watch the games on TV.”

The term “pent-up demand” might not do justice to the forces driving re-sale prices for the first World Series games played at Wrigley since 1945.

Die-hard Cub fan Jay Bontempo with Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta. | Photo courtesy of Jay Bontempo

Die-hard Cub fan Jay Bontempo with Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta. | Photo courtesy of Jay Bontempo

World Series games at Wrigley Field will be the most expensive ticket in baseball, with standing-room passes going for nearly $2,155 for Game 3, according to StubHub. The median price for the three potential games in Chicago rises from $3,000 for Game 1 to $3,600 for Game 5.

The highest sale price on StubHub to date: $71,800 for four bullpen box seats for a potential Game 5 at Wrigley, $17,950 each, spokesman Cameron Papp said. The price is refundable should the Cubs fall to the Dodgers, Papp said.

Games in Cleveland, which clinched their first appearance in the Series since 1996, are selling for about half the price of games at Wrigley, starting $795 with the median price rising to $1,125 for a Game 7.

Cubs ticket prices to date have surpassed the second-highest average for a World Series seen on StubHub, $1,800 for the Red Sox-Cardinals matchup in 2004 — the year the the Boston Red Sox finally exorcised the Curse of the Bambino and bumped Cleveland into second place on the list of longest World Series droughts. The Misery Multiplier effect on prices long-suffering fans are willing to pay not have peaked, Papp said.

“Will that price go up at Wrigley? It’s tough to predict Cubs demand at this point, because it’s like nothing we usually see,” Papp said. “It’s unprecedented.”

Longtime Chicago ticket broker Steve Buzil said prices are likely to fall as the games grow closer.

“The market right now is way over-inflated,” Buzil said Friday, estimating the cheapest tickets might fetch $1,500 by the first pitch at Wrigley Field. “I think you’re going to see prices fall 30, 40 percent.

“What you’re seeing in the websites now is people go out and have delusions of grandeur is what it is.”

Still, Wrigley has been the most expensive destination for fans throughout the playoffs, with an average ticket price of $530 for games in the National League Divisional Series, more than double the price of tickets for playoff games at AT&T Park in San Francisco, according to Jared Cooper, spokesman for TicketiQ, a website that aggregates sales data from ticket-resale sites.

Cooper advised that Buzil’s theory is correct: there will be an initial spike in prices online as sellers hope to get fantastical prices from must-have buyers who can’t withstand the anxiety of missing their chance to see a World Series game in Chicago. Prices for NLDS games against San Francisco dropped 42 percent after the first game of the series, according to TicketiQ data.

Papp said the prospect of being on hand if the Cubs are on the verge of winning their first World Series in 108 years could drive re-sale prices further into uncharted territory.

“I don’t think prices are going to tank by any means, but they might fall a little,” Papp said. “Then again, who knows? We’ve never seen anything like this.”

On Friday, as he contemplated the joy of being in Wrigley to see the Cubs overcome Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and earn a trip to the World Series, Bontempo worked himself into a state of irrational exuberance.

“Maybe I’ll even do another $5,000 each to bring my two sons to the World Series,” Bontempo said, choking up. “I know there’s people out there that don’t have enough to eat, that don’t have a place to stay. This was something I thought about, you know. But to be there, with my family. Maybe I will do it.”