The odds that a Denver Broncos season-ticket holder would win the organization's lottery and a chance to buy Super Bowl tickets at face value was slim.
But just how slim is a secret.
That's because Broncos officials refuse to say how many of the tickets allotted to the team by the NFL — an estimated 14,500 — were offered to season-ticket holders and how many were sold to a California company selling packaged trips including airfare and hotel stays.
Now Broncos fans, after the most successful football season in 16 years, are ranting about the team's confidential lottery system.
The Broncos repeatedly declined to say how many season-ticket holders had the option to buy Super Bowl tickets, only that the number of tickets was "in accordance" with NFL guidelines.
"We are in full compliance with all league guidelines in terms of tickets made available to our season-ticket holders as well as through our official travel partner," said Patrick Smyth, the Broncos' executive director of media relations.
He added: "That will be the extent of our comment."
PrimeSport, the Broncos' "official travel partner," would not say how many tickets it purchased from the Broncos and at what price.
"That information is completely confidential and proprietary," said PrimeSport spokesman Steve Webster.
The Los Angeles-area company has contracts with 16 NFL teams, as well as college bowl games and the Final Four basketball tournament. PrimeSport purchases tickets from the team, then sells packaged trips to fans, often on chartered flights.
An NFL spokesman was unable to comment before deadline when asked how many seats the league requires the Broncos to offer to season-ticket holders.
Broncos season-ticket holders received an email Sunday night, a few hours after the team beat the New England Patriots in the AFC championship, letting them know whether they won the lottery. Tickets were limited to two per ticket-holder account.
Those who didn't win were pitched an opportunity from PrimeSport.
"Unfortunately, your season-ticket account was not selected in the Denver Broncos season-ticket holder lottery to purchase tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII," it said. "Despite these results, there is still an opportunity for you to attend Super Bowl XLVIII."
A link to PrimeSport was included in the email. For $5,555 per person, two people can fly to New York City, stay three nights, attend the game against the Seattle Seahawks in East Rutherford, N.J., and get access to a pregame tailgate party. A season ticket isn't required to purchase the package.
Single tickets to the game were selling for $4,000 to $5,000 at various ticket websites this week. One Broncos ticket holder who won the lottery to purchase tickets at face value said he was offered two tickets for $1,700.
Disappointed Broncos fans said they were annoyed by the team's secrecy.
"They are just being very closed about it," said Judy Hartman, who along with her husband Roger has had season tickets for 47 years. "It's upsetting lots of Broncos fans. I might not be a Bronco fan if that's the way they want to treat us."
The Hartmans, of Arvada, sat in the east stands of the old Mile High Stadium when they were portable wooden benches, even during blizzards, Judy said. The last time the Broncos had a lottery, the Hartmans asked questions about the process but got no answers. "We feel like we have been pushed to the wayside after all these years."
Season-ticket holder J.B. Blue isn't mad that he didn't win the chance to buy tickets through the Broncos, only angry the team isn't being transparent.
"I am not bitter at all. I just want to know how the Broncos did this," said Blue, whose family has had season tickets since the 1960s. "As a season-ticket holder, I feel like I should have that information."
The Broncos' Smyth said the organization's lottery was weighted by priority number and that any tickets that were returned were "reallocated to our fans."
The NFL allocated 17.5 percent, or about 14,500 seats, of MetLife Stadium's 82,566 seats each to the Broncos and the Seahawks, according to news reports.
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, which was built with a combination of private and public funds including about $300 million in sales tax money, has 72,000 seats held by season-ticket holders.
Denver Post staff writer Kristen Painter contributed to this report.
Jennifer Brown: 303-954-1593, firstname.lastname@example.org twitter.com/jbrowndpost