Officials from the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and ticketing company AXS explained their new ticketing system to members of the media Thursday morning, saying they hope it will prevent the demand-induced server crashes of recent years as well as help ward off scalpers and ticket brokers.
The change, which also severs the rodeo's longtime relationship with Ticketmaster, will be in effect by next year's event, scheduled for March 3-22 at NRG Park. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday, January 17.
The new system will be available through AXS.com and the AXS smartphone app. As explained by AXS Vice President of Operations Curt Logan, the software creates a "virtual waiting room," a way station where ticketbuyers can monitor the availability of the performances they want to attend in real-time.
"Once they're in the waiting room, they're in the queue, rather than trying over and over again to get into the system," Logan said.
Logan explained the system is designed to both isolate potential ticket-hoarding "bots" and speed up the process by allowing users to enter their contact information (though not payment info) while waiting for a spot to open up. It also allows users to forward their tickets to friends in PDF format, he added, and will allow fans to enter rodeo performances by presenting their tickets via smartphone for stadium employees to scan.
Tickets purchased this way will carry a $3.50 fee, plus an additional charge if they are sent through the mail.
The rodeo's system would be unique among NRG Park events, Logan said, noting that the Houston Texans and other tenants of the facility do not use AXS. The change will require upgrades to or replacement of the existing scanning equipment, which he said would affect hundreds of devices, but noted that most employees can be brought up to speed on the new system in about an hour.
Tickets will also be available offline at the box office of BBVA Stadium until Monday, January 19, when they will also go on sale at NRG Stadium's SMG Box Office on the south end of the stadium near Bud Plaza, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo President Joel Cowley said. [Note: this paragraph has been changed to correct the physical on-sale location.]
"In the world of ticketing, there are very few [examples] like this," Logan noted. However, he said that AXS had successfully handled the sale of nearly 200,000 tickets for Garth Brooks' recent run of concerts at Minneapolis' Target Center, including 170,000 on the first day.
A few reporters on hand Thursday hinted strongly they would like to see a Brooks appearance next year, but Cowley stoically did not take the bait. He did allow that four or five entertainers would be rodeo first-timers, and that in his estimation the 2015 lineup "rivals or exceeds" its 2014 counterpart.
Following are the 2015 performances broken down by genre. The lineup will be announced at 12:05 a.m. on Monday, January 12.
Country: March 3-5, 7, 9-12, 14, 16, 18-22 Pop: March 8, 13, 17 R&B: March 6 Norteno/Banda: March 15
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