Over the winter, an unusual op-ed commentary appeared in the Star Tribune. It bemoaned the NBA Timberwolves’ move to all-digital ticketing, and the loss of the romance and simplicity of the paper ducat.

Last summer the team converted from a paper ticketing system to a digital one, where game entrance is achieved via a smartphone app bar code, credit card or driver’s license. This places the Wolves on the bleeding edge of technology trends. The paper ticket’s flexibility—or hassle, depending on your view—is about to be history.

About 70 percent of Wolves game visits are made using the app, known as Flash Seats, says Timberwolves SVP/chief revenue officer Ryan Tanke. The system was rolled out during the Lynx season to work out kinks, he says. Although fans have suggested the team made the switch to save on printing costs, Tanke says “our investment is way in excess of our savings. . . . After all, our owner [Glen Taylor] owns a printing company.” The transition was necessitated because Wolves’ ticketing is controlled by the company that runs Target Center, entertainment conglomerate AEG Worldwide, which owns Flash Seats.

Tanke lists the benefits as ticket transferability via email and the elimination of forgery and fraud. Tickets can be resold among Flash Seats users, and Flash Seats maintains a proprietary resale system. You no longer find Wolves tickets on the street or on sites like StubHub, and the Wolves participate in more of the secondary market transactions via Flash.

But the Wolves are only the first of many. The Vikings plan to move to digital ticketing at US Bank Stadium, says executive director of communications Jeff Anderson. Unlike the Wolves, however, the Vikings will allow tickets to be printed at home.

The biggest loss is the paper ticket as souvenir. Season-ticket holders once received tickets on thick stock that could be a treasured souvenir of legendary games or memorable seasons. Anderson says the Vikings are working on a commemorative token for season-ticket holders. The Wolves sent its “members” a wooden “ticket” and stand. You can’t use it to get into a game, but it works for bragging rights—though probably not this year.

—Adam Platt

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