Orioles cap season plans for first time Set '93 ticket limit of 27,500, alter discounts, exchanges

November 04, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

Staring into an avalanche of new and repeat ticket orders, the Orioles are taking the unusual step next year of limiting &r season-ticket sales to about 27,500, team officials said yesterday.

Only two major-league teams -- the Toronto Blue Jays and the Los Angeles Dodgers -- are believed to have imposed ticket ceilings last year. The Orioles had never resorted to a cap, despite nearly tripling their season-ticket business in the past five years.

But the sales boom that accompanied the team's move to Camden Yards last season stretched ticket inventories to the limit. In their first year in the new ballpark, the Orioles eclipsed virtually every team attendance record, selling out their final 68 home games and attracting a club-record 3.6 million fans.

Last year, Orioles season-ticket sales were approximately 25,000, including roughly 16,000 full-season plans of 81 games. The rest were for full-season equivalents -- orders for 13- and 29-game plans -- that, when added up, equaled 81 games.

Since then, the Orioles have received about 3,000 new orders, said Vince Dunbar, the Orioles director of sales operations.

The new limit won't affect current season-ticket holders, who should be receiving renewal letters from the team this week.

It's a different, and not so rosy, picture for fans seeking season tickets for the first time or current customers seeking to add to their plans. Under the new rules, they won't be assured of having their orders filled. Their requests will be entered into a lottery out of which some -- but probably not all -- orders will be filled.

Orioles officials cited two reasons for instituting the ticket limits, saying they needed to restrict sales so that fans who buy their tickets one game at a time would be protected -- although fewer single-game seats will be available this year than last -- and to meet certain obligations to 13- and 29-game season-ticket holders.

When they place their orders, those partial-plan customers receive guarantees of seats to at least one playoff and World Series game at the 48,041-seat Camden Yards stadium should the Orioles advance to postseason play. The number of tickets owed to full- and partial-plan buyers soon would have exceeded the ballpark's capacity if sales had continued to spiral, team officials said.

"The number we've chosen fits with our obligation to our mini-plan holders for the postseason and at the same time, it gives us well over 1 million tickets that will be available to groups and individuals," said Dunbar.

The ticket limit is one of several changes being implemented by the Orioles. In the letter to ticket buyers, the Orioles also announced a slight alteration in the ticket exchange policy and the elimination of discounts to customers who pay early.

As recently as 1989, fans who quickly paid their bills received a 10-percent discount from the Orioles. The bonus was sliced to 5 percent in 1990 and eliminated this year.

"Basically, we're trying to get more in line with what other baseball teams are doing," Dunbar said.

The end of the discount policy comes on the heels of a restructuring of Orioles ticket prices that added $2 to the price of about half the seats.

The new ticket exchange policy allows season-ticket holders to exchange their seats up to 24 hours before the first pitch, a change that gives fans more flexibility than the 48-hour rule in effect last year.

The Orioles also are planning an unusual launch for their sale of single-game tickets. On Dec. 4, the team will stage a special event at the stadium called "Moonlight Madness."

All 17 ticket windows will be open from 6 p.m. until midnight and also will be open Dec. 5 and 6, selling tickets to every game but Opening Day.

During the December weekend, fans will be limited to purchases of 10 tickets per game for up to eight games. Tickets also will be available that weekend at Ticketmaster outlets and by telephone.

Friday night, the team also will hold a series of activities, including a memorabilia auction and the unveiling of plaques commemorating members of the Orioles Hall of Fame.

"The perception last year was that it was impossible to get tickets," said team spokesman Rick Vaughn. Noting that 1.5 million tickets for single games would be on sale the first weekend, Vaughn added, "We're hoping to change that."

Orioles season tickets

The Orioles' season-ticket sales figures for the past 14 seasons:

Year Season tickets

1979 1,623

1980 4,018

1981 5,215

1982 5,430

1983 6,061

1984 11,738

1985 11,707

1986 11,145

1987 10,512

1988 10,082

1989 10,849

1990 15,024

1991 17,500

1992 25,000*

* -- Orioles' estimate

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