By Marina Lopes
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ticket prices for upper-level seats at the Super Bowl plummeted 38 percent since the conference championship games, the largest drop for the week in six years, as frigid temperatures discouraged football fans from braving the elements to sit in the stands at New Jersey's MetLife stadium.
Lows of 22 Fahrenheit (minus 5 Celsius) forecast for Sunday's game, the first Super Bowl played outdoors in a cold-weather city, drove ticket prices as low as $1,309, said Meredith Owen, TicketCity.com Communication Director, but they have risen since then to an average of $1,609.
Those who did buy tickets, preferred the partially covered premium seats at the lower levels of the stadium.
"Fans are going to be paying a premium for the promise of a buffer from the wind," said Owen.
The rise in sales of premium tickets made them 54 percent more expensive than upper-level seats - compared with last year's 30 percent, he said.
Further hampering sales is the distance that separates the New Jersey stadium from the hometowns of the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. Those thousands of miles are proving too far to travel for the championship teams' fans.
Lower ticket prices drew renewed interest from residents of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, who led visits to TiqIQ.com, a site that resells tickets to the public.
"It is a very good deal to check the Super Bowl off the bucket list and not have to miss a day of work to do it," said Jesse Lawrence, CEO of TiqIQ.com.
The rise in ticket sales to locals may shrink the $500 million to $600 million the NFL Host Committee estimates the game will generate in economic activity for the region, as fans have no need to pay for hotels or other travel expenses.
Fifty-five percent of hotels within the 3.7 mile-radius of the stadium, and 70 percent of hotels in Manhattan still have vacancies, according to data from Orbitz.com. Hotels close to the stadium are posting an average room rate of $181 on the site, an 8 percent decrease since Wednesday.
"If you look at economic impact, the big factor at the end of the day is dependent on the teams that play, and if they travel," said Robert Tuchman, President of Goviva, a sports and entertainment events company. "The teams that are in it are really far away, and it's a long trip. Without a doubt, you are going to find in this market there are a lot of locals."
But the New York Hotel Association remained optimistic that the game will bring a wave of tourists to the region.
"The weather prediction for Sunday is good, and we're optimistic that people will come to enjoy the game and stay in the city as well," said Lisa Linden, the association's spokeswoman.
As weather forecasts grow more positive, ticket prices are rising again from their weekend low.
"We may be seeing the market coming back from here," said Lawrence.
It would not be the first comeback in Super Bowl prices.
In 2011, prices fell 19 percent in the first week after the conference championship on fears of bad weather in Dallas before it became the most expensive Super Bowl in history, with prices climbing to an average of $3,649 per ticket, Lawrence said.
"I think it was a similar scenario," he said.
For those looking for a true respite from the cold, $25,700, the most expensive ticket on the site, buys fans access to a 20,000 square foot indoor facility, an open bar, food and multiple televisions, he said.
(Reporting By Marina Lopes; editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)