Sandy King couldn't be on hand for the Longhorn football team's national title-clinching victory in 2006 because she had just given birth to her daughter Nicole.
"I'm not about to miss this one," said King, referring to Thursday's University of Texas vs. University of Alabama championship matchup in Pasadena, Calif.
The UT grad and some friends and family turned to a home-grown source, Austin-based TicketCity, paying about $900 apiece for seats.
The company's founder, Randy Cohen, was a UT student himself back in 1988 when he began peddling sports and entertainment tickets. Two years later he started TicketCity, which is now an international operation, selling admission to everything from the Olympics to the Masters, the Kentucky Derby and Broadway shows.
Revenue for operations at TicketCity has grown 275 percent in the past 10 years, according to the company. Cohen declined to give figures for revenue and profit, but the company said it sold tickets to more than 18,000 events in 2009.
With his wireless headset resting on his desk, Cohen laughed as he recalled the early days of the company when he drove around Austin delivering tickets with his cell phone in a bag on the seat next to him.
The company says it was the first secondary broker of tickets to have a Web site, in 1998. In 2000, it bought the troubled Connecticut-based 1-800-Sold Out for $250,000, giving it access to the Northeast, Cohen said.
"We reinvent ourselves over and over again," Cohen said.
Now, the 30-employee company is adding office space to bring in more technology and sales workers.
It also is preparing to build a new part of the business that will offer a service similar to that of Stub Hub. In the coming months, TicketCity is hoping to roll out a service in which individuals will be able to offer their own tickets for sale to buyers.
Thousands of people around the country have been using a growing number of secondary ticket brokers.
Some go to Ticketmaster, Tickets.com, Tickex or Centex Tickets, but King has chosen her established hometown company, just as she had done for the past dozen years to purchase tickets for events including a Hannah Montana show, "The Lion King" stage performance and a Disney Live stage production.
"Basically, any event that comes into town, I call TicketCity," said the 1994 graduate of UT. "They are very easy to deal with, and they have always gotten the tickets I need."
Cohen said his and his employees' enthusiasm for customer service has allowed the company to be successful.
"Passion can really make a difference," he said.
The Austin company, which has its headquarters near RM 2222 on Balcones Drive, gets tickets from universities, bowl game organizers and other brokers. It also deals directly with individuals who seek to dump their tickets to events.
"We're speculators," Cohen said.
The company has not been without problems.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged the company on Aug. 5, 2008, with deceiving people who thought they bought tickets to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games.
Abbott said TicketCity sold opening ceremonies tickets for $1,250 and promised to double the refund if it failed to deliver the pre-purchased tickets. The company didn't have the tickets it sold, and when salespeople couldn't obtain them, the company refused to honor the 200 percent refunds, Abbott said.
Abbott is seeking civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and awards in actual damages to consumers who were financially harmed.
"(W)e are in the discovery phase preparing for trial," Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the attorney general, said in a news release.
Cohen said the case "is getting close to being finished."
For the big game on Jan. 7, TicketCity said it sold 65 percent more tickets than it did for the 2006 Rose Bowl — the game that ended up with Texas beating the University of Southern California.
The average invoice, which could include added items like entry to tailgating parties, for the 2006 Rose Bowl was $1,300. But this year, the BCS average invoice has been $1,075, as of Dec. 31, according to data compiled from TicketCity.
Cohen said year-over-year growth for his company has been flat.
But for 2010, Cohen said he expects significant growth because of international events, such as the World Cup in South Africa and Vancouver Winter Olympics
But the economy has had an effect, said Chief Operating Officer Zach Anderson.
In a down economy, the company typically loses the corporate business, Anderson said.
However, he said: "Fans are still going to events ... but it's smaller-dollar orders."