Here’s How Much It Would Cost to Attend the Entire NCAA March Madness Tournament

Money

The atmosphere is electric. The games can be historic. And witnessing the crowning of a national champion could be a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

It’s also really, REALLY expensive.

The NCAA Men’s Div. I Basketball Tournament is here, and after an incredible week of conference tournaments, filled with buzzer beaters, quadruple overtimes and stunning upsets, expect this year’s March Madness to be even crazier.

And maybe, even more expensive.

The folks at Priceline.com, tempting us to open our wallets and go see our favorite team play in person this year, offered a breakdown on how much it would cost to watch each and every game of this year’s March Madness tournament.

Of course, we already know you can watch every game for free, or next to nothing, after consulting our 2016 March Madness Live Stream Guide. Like everything we offer up, no cable subscription is required.

But for those looking to see madness live (and for those with deep pockets), hoping to witness their Cinderella pick dance to the Final Four, here’s our analysis:

 

Price breakdown

March Madness tickets are broken up into essentially two categories: The get-in price, which is the actual over-the-counter retail price and then the scalped ticket price, which as you can imagine, is much more expensive. You can always find a scalped ticket. The retail tickets are limited and likely sold out at this point.

The early round games are broken into sessions, which include two games. All-session ticket packages are also available. So, you could pay $65 retail to watch Florida Gulf Coast take on Fairleigh Dickinson followed the Vanderbilt vs. Wichita State game, or pay $287, and also watch the Holy Cross-Southern game and Michigan-Tulsa game. To make the math a little easier on us, we’re going to calculate the all-session price, which is more expensive, likely due to convenience, for our analysis.

Priceline also offered up the national average round trip airfare to each of the sites, in addition to the average hotel night stay for a four-. three-, and two-star hotel and a two-star hotel. For the airlines, expect sites like Dayton and Spokane to be more expensive than central hubs like Denver or New York. For the hotels, the reported ranges were pretty drastic, so we’re going to be conservative and split the difference. We’re also sticking with three-star hotels. If you can afford to go to a bulk of these games, you can afford a nice hotel. (If we’re being more realistic, though, expect hotels to be on the higher end during the biggest sporting tournament of the year.)

Now, here’s the kicker: You can’t actually attend every single game in the tournament, unless you’re able to defy physics and teleport back and forth between sites. Especially in the early rounds, games are going on all the time.

But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that you can. Or that you’re at least paying for yourself or someone else to watch every single game.

 

How much?

Here’s the breakdown of cost, round-by-round:

Play-in rounds

UD Arena — Dayton, Ohio

All session tickets: Retail: $287 Average scalped: $387

Airfare: $396

Hotel: $189

Games:

  • Florida Gulf Coast vs. Fairleigh Dickinson
  • Vanderbilt vs. Wichita State
  • Holy Cross vs. Southern
  • Michigan vs. Tulsa

Total: $872-$972

First and second rounds

Dunk’ Donuts Center — Providence, Rhode Island

All session tickets: Retail: $460 Average scalped: $805

Airfare: $402

Hotel: $227

Games:

  • Duke vs. North Carolina Wilmington
  • Baylor vs. Yale
  • Miami vs. Buffalo
  • Arizona vs. Vanderbilt/Wichita State

Total: $1,089-$1,434

Wells Fargo Arena — Des Moines, Iowa

All session tickets: Retail: $630 Average scalped: $1,959

Airfare: $493

Hotel: $170

Games:

  • Colorado vs. UConn
  • Kansas vs. Austin Peay
  • Indiana vs. Chattanooga
  • Kentucky vs. Stony Brook

Total: $1,293-$2,622

PNC Arena — Raleigh, North Carolina

All session tickets: Retail: $315 Average scalped: $724

Airfare: $333

Hotel: $180

Games:

  • Texas Tech vs. Butler
  • Virginia vs. Hampton
  • North Carolina vs. Florida Gulf Coast/Fairleigh Dickinson
  • USC vs. Providence

Total: $828-$1,237

Pepsi Center — Denver, Colorado

All session tickets: Retail: $575 Average scalped: $1,053

Airfare: $275

Hotel: $172

Games:

  • Iowa State vs. Iona
  • Purdue vs. Arkansas-Little Rock
  • Utah vs. Fresno State
  • Seton Hall vs. Gonzaga

Total: $1,022-$1,500

Barclays Center — Brooklyn, New York

All session tickets: Retail: $218 Average scalped: $752

Airfare: $279

Hotel: $312

Games:

  • Villanova vs. UNC Asheville
  • Iowa vs. Temple
  • West Virginia vs. Stephen F. Austin
  • Notre Dame vs. Michigan/Tulsa

Total: $809-$1,343

Scottrade Center — St. Louis, Missouri

All session tickets: Retail: $181 Average scalped: $491

Airfare: $318

Hotel: $154

Games:

  • Dayton vs. Syracuse
  • Michigan State vs. Middle Tennessee State
  • Wisconsin Vs. Pittsburgh
  • Xavier vs. Weber State

Total: $653-$963

Chesapeake Energy Arena — Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

All session tickets: Retail: $215 Average scalped: $517

Airfare: $472

Hotel: $96

Games:

  • Oregon State vs. VCU
  • Oklahoma vs. CSU Bakersfield
  • Texas A&M vs. UW-Green Bay
  • Texas vs. Northern Iowa

Total: $783-$1,085

Spokane Arena — Spokane, Washington

All session tickets: Retail: $295 Average scalped: $560

Airfare: $367

Hotel: $117

Games:

  • California vs. Hawaii
  • Maryland vs. South Dakota State
  • Oregon vs. Holy cross/Southern
  • Joe’s vs. Cincinnati

Total: $779-$1,044

Sweet 16, Elite 8

West Regional

Honda Center — Anaheim, California

All session tickets: Retail: $167 Average scalped: $583

Airfare: $327

Hotel: $271

Total: $765-$1,181

South Regional

KFC Yum! Center — Louisville, Kentucky

All session tickets: Retail: $167 Average scalped: $449

Airfare: $344

Hotel: $189

Total: $690-$972

Midwest Regional

United Center — Chicago, Illinois

All session tickets: Retail: $148 Average scalped: $536

Airfare: $257

Hotel: $377

Total: $782-$1,170

East Regional

Wells Fargo Center — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

All session tickets: Retail: $248 Average scalped: $725

Airfare: $294

Hotel: $206

Total: $748-$1,225

Final Four, National Championship

NRG Stadium — Houston, Texas

All session tickets: Retail: $309 Average scalped: $1,282

Airfare: $295

Hotel: $327

Total: $931-$1,904

Grand Total

  • The price if you were able to get retail tickets for all games: $12,044
  • The price if you needed to scalp tickets for every game: $18,652
  • And the price if you were to do a combination of the two: $15,348

 

Notes and highlights:

  • First, I think we can all agree that as much fun as it would be to see every single game live, spending more than $15,000 to do so probably isn’t in the cards for most people.
  • These totals are also pretty conservative. They don’t factor in food or beverages and hotels are just rates — they don’t factor in the taxes on top of the rate.
  • While the Final Four and National Championship game are rightly the most expensive in terms of scalped tickets, according to Priceline, it’s not the most expensive session to attend. That would be in Des Moines, Iowa, of all places, where the overall No. 1 seed Kansas kicks off its tournament run.
  • And, of course, ticket prices could go up and down as the tournament progresses. If the Final Four is made up of all No. 1 seeds, prices could skyrocket. If it’s filled with mid-level seeds, they could drop.

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Andrew Dodson

Andrew Dodson

Andrew Dodson is a journalist from Michigan who writes for MLive.com, the state's top online news source. He previously worked as the technology editor for TVNewsCheck.com, a trade publication that covers the broadcasting industry, where he frequently wrote about cord cutting and taking advantage of over-the-air television. He's married to his wife Erin and is a proud Mini Cooper owner.
Andrew Dodson