O's might reassign some seats Ticket moves would benefit longtime fans

November 18, 1993|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

As many as 500 Orioles season-ticket holders, most with seats in prime sections, may be moved to less-desirable locations at Camden Yards next season as part of a plan by the club's new owners to give a higher priority to longtime ticket holders.

Managing general partner Peter G. Angelos has asked club officials to review seating charts and compile a list of customers who might be moved to open the best possible seats for the Orioles' most long-standing fans, some of whom have been buying season tickets for decades.

Those most likely to be moved from their prime seats are well-connected fans with little or no history of buying season tickets before the move to Camden Yards two years ago. Those customers could include friends of former owner Eli S. Jacobs, a New York financier who enjoyed playing host to Washington politicians and power brokers at the downtown ballpark.

Also likely to be affected by the reassignments are customers who had season tickets at Memorial Stadium, but increased the number of seats they control after the move to Camden Yards. Some of those fans will be required to part with the extra seats or move them to other locations, Orioles officials said.

Fans affected by the seat reassignments should be hearing from the Orioles soon. Club officials said they expect to begin making phone calls to many of the fans next week. Ticket holders who have received invoices from the club will not be affected by the relocation, a club spokesman said yesterday.

Angelos said the Orioles are working diligently to "make the adjustments we feel are necessary." But he was not critical of seating decisions made by Jacobs or other former club officials.

"Did some people get preferential treatment? No question," he said. "Obviously, some politics is present. But I don't think it's rewarding in any way to cover old ground as to why. The best we can do is to make as many adjustments as possible so we can eliminate the inequities."

Joe Foss, Angelos' chief financial adviser with the Orioles, and one of the club officials reviewing the seating charts, agreed.

"I wouldn't suggest that there was malice or manipulation. But there certainly is a need to take a fresh look at where people are seated and try to do as best we can to accommodate their wishes," Foss said.

The number of seats involved in the reassignments will be a tiny fraction of the ballpark's capacity of 48,079. But the plan could draw the ire of fans being moved out, in part because many seats involved are among the best at Camden Yards --lower boxes between the dugouts. Those were the first seats to sell out when Camden Yards opened, and they have been out of reach since then because few customers voluntary have given them up.

The Orioles capped their sale of season tickets at 27,500. The club also has a waiting list of another 9,000 to 10,000 of fans seeking Orioles tickets.

"As a percentage of all our seats, it's very small. But it's in a premium seating area, so it has been a time-consuming task," said Foss, referring to the relocations. "We're not going to take a situation that isn't perfect, put an imperfect mind like mine to work and make it perfect. But we'll attempt wherever possible to improve the seats."

As they pore over seating charts, Orioles officials also are trying toblock out seats for investors in the club's ownership group. More than 20 people have money invested in the club, and finding prime seats for all could be a daunting task.

Foss said some members of the groups, including sportscaster Jim McKay, already have seats and probably would keep their locations or move close by. Other investors apparently will end up in prime areas behind the Orioles dugout and between the dugout and the screen.

Not surprisingly, Angelos and novelist Tom Clancy, who together control about 77 percent of the club, could have the best seats of all.

"It would be my recommendation that Peter and Tom have the first row against the dugout," Foss said. "And if Peter and Tom want to sit in the dugout, we'll call Major League Baseball and see what we can do."

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