Who needs tickets?
Internet sites are heating up like the streets around First Niagara Center just before a big hockey game or concert.
The biggest ticket in town this week is President Obama at the University at Buffalo.
Hawkers – many camping out overnight or waiting in what some called “a mile-long line” Tuesday afternoon to pick up free passes for the president’s visit and speech Thursday at UB’s Alumni Arena on the North Campus in Amherst – were seeking between $75 to $500 each on Craigslist late Tuesday.
Angola resident Nathan Hawes’ offer topped the scale – three tickets at $500 apiece at 4:08 p.m., about an hour after he took his place in a line about 450 people deep. By 5:30 p.m., he said he had moved up to about 150th in a line that had grown even longer behind him. But Hawes told The Buffalo News he was assured of getting tickets for the event.
“I want to go to see the president with my daughter,” said Hawes, struggling to contain his excitement at the chance to get “as close to the president as possible” with his 4-year-old daughter, Stella.
Another high-priced ticket Tuesday on Craigslist belonged to a UB senior who identified himself as “Nate” and said he won the ticket in a student lottery.
After asking $300 for “one general admission ticket,” Nate said had received about five calls from “people trying to negotiate.”
“It’s an extra ticket,” said Nate, who added that he intended to attend the president’s speech using another ticket. “Just trying to get rid of it, no big plans.”
Reselling presidential tickets isn’t a new phenomenon for Obama events, or those in Buffalo.
In 2002, some UB students who quickly gobbled up 7,000 free tickets to hear former President Bill Clinton speak at Alumni Arena turned quick capitalists, shopping their ducats on eBay for as much as $90 each.
“It’s a historical event happening here,” said Denise Camarre, a Niagara Falls resident who was the first in line outside the arena at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday waiting for a ticket – more than 15 hours before they were handed out to the general public. “A sitting president? I’ll never see that again in my lifetime.”
Camarre, aside from the Chaffee woman who on the president’s last visit to Buffalo in 2010 called him a “hottie with a smokin’ little body,” might just be the biggest Obama fan in town.
“I love Barack. He’s got a swagger,” Camarre said of the commander-in-chief. “He understands all of us.”
UB officials said the White House directed them to not say how many tickets would be given out.
But the Santiago family secured five tickets by packing into the car early Tuesday morning and making the trip from Salamanca.
“One day you’ll thank us,” Alyssa Santiago said to her two children, who were yawning. “They’re going to grow up and have stories of seeing the president.”
The line outside Alumni Arena was a diverse mix of ages and races, but Thursday’s presidential visit will have special meaning for Anthony Tyson of Buffalo.
“It’s a historical thing for the first African-American president to come to Buffalo,” said Tyson, who is black. “My family is a big supporter of him.”
Like many supporters who lined up for tickets, Tyson and Camarre acknowledge that the president has had some struggles lately. But that hasn’t soured their opinion of him.
“He’s doing the best he can with the hand he was dealt,” Camarre said. “He got on the ship, and it was already sunk.”
While would-be ticket holders lined up at the box office at Alumni Arena, the students, faculty and staff at UB were notified via email Tuesday whether they would receive a ticket for admission.
The event is drawing keen interest, according to John DellaContrada, assistant vice president for media relations at UB, with about 8,500 faculty members, staff and students registering for the online lottery.
While DellaContrada declined to give the exact number of tickets available, Alumni Arena generally has seating for between 6,000 and 7,000 for its Distinguished Speaker Series, which includes floor seating.
Lottery winners, like the UB senior “Nate,” have until 6 p.m. today to pick up their tickets at the Student Union on the North Campus. They must be present and produce their student or staff ID.
Tickets, which were free, were available to the general public at the Alumni Arena box office from 5 p.m. Tuesday.
BuffaloNews.com is your destination for comprehensive coverage of President Obama’s visit to Western New York on Thursday.
From the time Air Force One touches down through the bus tour’s departure, The Buffalo News will provide:
* Live video from the airport and President Obama’s speech at UB.
* A running blog with frequent updates from Western New York’s largest news gathering team scattered throughout the area to best cover the visit.
* Thorough and up-to-date articles, notebooks and sidebars.
* Photo galleries from various points of the day, including a vantage point from within the presidential travelling party.
* Video recaps following the speech and including onlookers’ thoughts on the appearance.
You will find it all on BuffaloNews.com and by following @TheBuffaloNews on Twitter.