O's say 'very soon' for ticket policy

April 29, 1995|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Writer

Prodded by an impatient Baltimore City Council, the Orioles yesterday moved closer to making good on an 10-month-old promise by announcing they soon will begin an expanded ticket refund and exchange policy.

"We're in the process of developing a program, and we expect to put it into place very soon," said Bill Stetka, Orioles assistant public relations director. "What we didn't want to do was rush into something and have to change it. We want it to work for everybody."

Orioles owner Peter Angelos did not return a phone call yesterday.

The club's announcement came after several city officials expressed concern about the Orioles' failure to follow up on a promise to develop a plan to handle refunds and exchanges at Camden Yards.

Orioles officials made their pledges last June, when the City Council was considering tougher laws to combat ticket reselling around the ballpark. Spurred by Angelos, a supporter of tougher laws, council members approved a measure making it illegal to sell a ticket -- even at its printed price -- on a street or sidewalk within one mile of Camden Yards. Offenders can be fined $25.

The council also increased the penalty for scalping -- selling tickets for more than face value -- from $250 to $1,000.

Council members nearly split over whether to create a "no-reselling zone" around the ballpark. Some argued against the measure, saying that fans legally should be able to sell their tickets for the printed price.

Opponents eventually were swayed by Orioles officials, who said they had plans to set up a kiosk or special window for fans seeking exchanges or refunds.

The club's current policy is more liberal than those of most of the 27 other major-league clubs. However, team officials suggested that a new plan would extend the policy so fans might be able to get refunds almost until game time.

That didn't happen last year. But the Orioles' omission barely was noticed, mostly because of the players strike that ended the season. The strike began a few days after the new law took effect.

Police did not issue citations last year, but Lt. Russell Shea Jr., the police officer who oversees police protection at the stadium, said the ticket-reselling law would be enforced at the home opener Monday.

The Orioles' announcement comes at a time when council members are becoming restless. Sixth District Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, a sponsor of the ticket bills, said he had the impression last summer that the Orioles would set up their exchange program 30 days after the bills passed.

He said he would be watching on Opening Day.

"Whether it is Mr. Angelos, me or the city, we will respond to the needs of fans and constituents," DiBlasi said before the Orioles' announcement yesterday. "I don't expect I'll have to twist Mr. Angelos' arm at all on this. I think he will respond immediately."

First District Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., one of the bill's opponents, introduced an amendment to create a zone at Camden Yards where fans could buy and sell tickets at face value. The amendment failed, but D'Adamo said he might revive it if the Orioles don't act quickly.

"I'll give them a couple of weeks into season, then I'll dust off the bill and try to push it through council," D'Adamo said.

The Orioles cite several reasons why a new ticket policy has been delayed. The baseball strike has occupied much of the attention of club officials. About $7 million in tickets for games canceled by the strike have not been redeemed for refunds or exchanges, said John Angelos, one of the team officials sorting out ticket problems.

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