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Take a look back at the 2016 NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, the city's first time hosting first- and second-round NCAA games. Bryon Houlgrave, Des Moines Register

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Weeks before Iowans learn which teams will play at Wells Fargo Arena this March, tickets are already sold out for the NCAA men's basketball tournament in Des Moines.

After a 2016 debut, Des Moines will host the first and second rounds of the tournament for the second time on March 21 and March 23. But fans must look to secondary markets to purchase seats as organizers sold their entire local allotment months ago. 

Catch Des Moines, the local convention and visitor's bureau that organized the city's NCAA bid, recommends fans purchase tickets on the official NCAA Ticket Exchange, said spokeswoman Jordan Powers.

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As of Feb. 27, seats on the site began at $90 for the first session of first-round games March 21 and were listed as high as $382.50 (before fees and shipping costs).

Tickets for second-round play on March 23 began at $166 for upper-level seats and ranged as high as $517.50 for lower-level seats near half court.

All-session tickets started at $300 per person and reached as high as $3,000 on the exchange, where all purchases are 100 percent guaranteed. Those tickets would allow fans access to both sessions of first-round play on Thursday and to both second-round games Saturday.

Each team playing in the tournament is required to purchase 350 tickets for first- and second-round games, Powers said, with the option of purchasing an additional 100 tickets. 

"We did have tickets returned in 2016 and would expect the same this year," she said. 

Fans can sign up for a ticket waiting list on the Events Center website.

In the meantime, tickets are available from a wide variety of similar secondary marketplaces:

  • Tickets on Craigslist ranged from as low as $50 apiece for a single session to as much as $800 per ticket for the full strip.
  • Ticketmaster advertised tickets beginning at $296 apiece with some reaching as high as $2,940.
  • Seats on StubHub started at $77 and reached as high as $5,450 each.
  • SeatGeek listed tickets from $97 to as much as $1,800 per person.
  • Vivid Seats had secondary-market single-session seats in the $60 range, with all-session strips running from $290-$1,900 per seat.
  • Tickets for Less, a secondary provider based out of the Kansas City metro area, offers tickets without extra costs in fees. Those seats are as low as $78 for a single session, and from $379 to more than $2,500 for all-session passes.

The NCAA's selection committee will announce the entire tournament schedule on Sunday, March 17. 

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In 2016, last-minute bargains were available for first-round games: Some nosebleed seats sold for as little as $15 on the first day of play in Des Moines. But many tickets to blockbuster games fetched two to three times their face values, with prime seats demanding as much as $1,800 on secondary markets. 

Among all first and second round host cities in 2019, Des Moines was first to sell out of its local allotment of seats, said Chris Connolly, general manager Iowa Events Center. Some of the other locations touted larger venues or bigger cities, though pre-sale ticket inventories were similar across sites.

"We’re in a great spot. There’s other first and second round spots that are still selling tickets," Connolly said in February. "We have no tickets left available for sale. The only tickets you can buy in Des Moines, you have to go on secondary ticketing sites to find them."

Teams will have less than two days to sell their tickets before they go back to the NCAA Ticket Exchange. Even then, it will be touch for fans to secure tickets at face value.

"People have to be fast to get those," Connolly said. 

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