Baltimoreans who thrilled to the Colts in the days of $4 bleacher seats are about to learn an ugly truth: The NFL has gotten more expensive.
Much more expensive.
The Ravens released the first details of their emerging ticket program yesterday, including a plan to defray moving expenses by charging season-ticket buyers for a one-time permanent seat license.
There will be some budget seats, such as $17-per-game tickets at Memorial Stadium this year and next. But when the team moves into its new stadium in 1998, most ticket buyers will find themselves shelling out $500 or $750 for a license, which will give them the right to buy tickets that could cost $450 or more each year.
That puts the cost of a pair of tickets and licenses at about $2,000.
The team took pains in presentations yesterday to stress the positives: Seat-license holders can count on the same seat year after year and can sell or bequeath it, the prices are lower than they could have been and, compared with other cities, Baltimore's plan may be cheaper for some fans.
"We recognized that the strength of the NFL is not corporate cocktail parties, but fathers and mothers bringing their sons and daughters to the games," said David Modell, Ravens vice president and son of the team owner.
Seat licenses, new to Baltimore but growing more common in the NFL, will be required before fans can buy Ravens season tickets. They will cost $500 to $3,000, depending on the quality of the seat, and will last indefinitely and do not have to be renewed.
Owning a license obligates a holder to buy a 10-game season ticket every year. Fans in some other cities have sold licenses at a profit when they moved or decided to stop attending games, but making money on them cannot be assured.
Fans seem divided on the concept. Eldersburg resident Dean Piccoli, a two-year season-ticket holder for the CFL's Baltimore Stallions, said he is not happy to be paying the extra cost.
"I've been disenchanted from the get-go with this. I'm not surprised by any of the numbers. I'm just not sure what I want to do. I have to make a decision on whether I want to pay for all of the games or just scalp them," Piccoli said.
Norman Anderson, president of one of the network of Colts Corral booster clubs, expressed mixed feelings.
"I was hoping the PSLs would start a bit lower than that, maybe a couple of hundred dollars lower, but I guess that's within reason for most people. I know the top range is way out of my range. I'm just happy that football is back in Baltimore, even at this price," Anderson said.
The $68 million raised by the seat licenses will be used to pay for moving expenses specified in the team's contract with the state, such as paying off leases and debts in Cleveland and covering any NFL assessments. The team estimates it will have $125 million in relocation expenses.
The team's deal with the state allowed it to charge up to a total of $80 million for seat licenses.
Tickets at Memorial Stadium will cost $17 to $75, with a weighted average of $40.05. That compares with the NFL's average of $33.39 last season, a figure that presumably will go up this year, and the team's last year in Cleveland, $32.61.
The $75 "premier seats" will come with extra amenities, such as parking and premium food and drinks.
Two-thirds of Memorial Stadium tickets will be $35 or less.
Memorial Stadium season-ticket buyers will not have to buy a seat license, but will have to put down a $100 deposit for one at the new stadium at Camden Yards. The deposit would be refundable later this year if, after Camden Yards ticket prices are announced in August, a buyer decided not to commit.
zTC The buyer could keep his tickets for this year, but would lose them for next year.
Memorial Stadium ticket applications have to be mailed and will not be considered until June 12.
Those arriving on or before that that day will be filled by a computer in random order. Later ones will be considered in the order they arrive, with each day's shipments being shuffled by a computer.
Applications will be available at area businesses and in The Sun beginning May 29.
Three groups of fans will get earlier applications and priority in sales.
Fans who put down deposits on club seats in 1993 as part of Baltimore's failed expansion bid will receive their applications a few days earlier. Top priority will go to the depositors who left their money on account, followed by those who took their money back after the city lost.
The 1993 club-seat buyers will be able to bid on regular seats or club seats, but will not receive as many regular seats as promoted during that drive.
Then people who have called or written about tickets since the team announced its move will get a shot, followed by the general public.
Fans who cannot afford season tickets and seat licenses can attempt to buy some of the 6,000 seats set aside at every game at both stadiums for single-game sales.