MORRISON, Colo. (CBS4) – Ticket scalpers have apparently found a new revenue stream — somehow acquiring, then reselling Red Rocks concert tickets that were expressly intended for disabled concertgoers.
“Well it makes me sick,” said concert promoter Chuck Morris, who learned of the phenomena through a CBS4 investigation. “The law was made to protect the disabled and the bad guys figured out a way to get around it.”
The issue came to light through Matt Feeney, a Winter Park resident who broke his back in 1988 and is a paraplegic. Feeney is confined to a wheelchair but enjoys going to Red Rocks shows. He was excited when he found out that one of his favorite bands, The String Cheese Incident, was booked into Red Rocks for three nights in July.
When tickets went on sale and Feeney went online, he found that the limited number of spots for the disabled for some of the shows were immediately gone. It didn’t bother Feeney until he later went on Stubhub.com, a secondary ticket site where event tickets are resold, and found the $60 front row seats were being made available to able-bodied concertgoers at dramatically inflated prices — as much as $253 per seat — more than four times the face value.
“When someone does that they’re taking a seat from the person it was intended for. When someone is out there buying up these seats and reselling them at a profit at someone else’s expense, there’s something wrong about that.”
Due to the unique configuration of Red Rocks, wheelchair-bound concertgoers like Feeney can only sit in the front row or the very last row — row 70 of the amphitheater.
The String Cheese Incident shows are all general admission, so the only reserved seats are the ones for the disabled, making the front row spots extremely desirable and valuable.
“It’s aggravating, completely aggravating,” Feeney said.
Feeney and Morris call what’s happening immoral and unethical. Tony Gagliardi from Ticketmaster agrees.
“They (scalpers) are very much profit driven and they aren’t thinking in terms of the moral conditions there. There are loopholes and they are quick to exploit them,” Gagliardi said.
Ironically, the very law that mandates disabled seating at concerts makes it nearly impossible to fix the problem. The Americans With Disabilities Act says that someone buying an accessible seat can then buy up to three additional seats for their companions in the same row. The ADA then allows the disabled purchaser to resell those seats, even to someone who does not have a disability.
Making it even more difficult to alleviate the problem, the ADA also prohibits venues or ticket sellers from requiring proof of disability as a condition for buying accessible seats.
“They’re not breaking the law, but there’s a moral question there of how they’re taking advantage of people with disabilities,” Gagliardi said.
Gagliardi and Morris say one of the only things they can do is ask able-bodied concertgoers to play by the rules.
“I would plead with people; if you have a chance to buy a front row seat that’s reserved for the disabled, please don’t buy it,” Morris said.
“If they (the able bodied) don’t purchase those tickets then the demand is going down,” Gagliardi said.
As for Feeney, he was able to secure disabled seats for two nights of the String Cheese Incident, but for one of the nights, he had to pay a scalper $400 for two accessible seats.
“I often wonder how these people sleep at night doing this,” Feeney said.
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com