Ticket pitch is short relief Stadium: The Ravens are telling potential season-ticket buyers that the new building's greatest plus will be a plethora of bathrooms.

December 18, 1996|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

In terms of home video entertainment, it ranks somewhere ahead of a Stephen L. Miles commercial and behind a tape of your nephew's first trip to the zoo.

But the message it imparts is unmistakable: Better days are ahead for Baltimore football fans. Wider seats. Tastier food. Jazzier replays. More bathrooms.

Lots more bathrooms.

The seven-minute videotape arriving this week at the homes of about 18,000 Ravens season-ticket holders is designed to generate interest in the team's pricey future. Today is the deadline for current ticket holders to keep their places in line for seats and seat licenses at the new stadium scheduled to open in 1998, although team officials say they won't actively begin courting new buyers for at least a week or two.

As of Friday, the team had heard back from about a third of its season-ticket holders, and sold about a third of the new stadium's 62,400 season tickets.

David Modell, Ravens executive vice president and chief marketing official responsible for the video, said he was pleased with the sales so far. "We recognize that it's holiday time, and people are busy," Modell said.

The effort hasn't been helped by the Ravens' 4-11 record, one of the worst in the NFL this season.

What's a team to do? Change the subject. To the bathrooms.

The videotape features plenty of game highlights. But more conspicuous are the extended shots of the lines outside a bathroom at Memorial Stadium. Dozens of grim-faced men, shifting back and forth uncomfortably on their feet, are seen waiting.

And waiting. And waiting.

Suddenly, the scene switches to a wide-open bathroom at the Carolina Panthers' new stadium in Charlotte, N.C. It's the NFL's newest stadium and was designed by the same people doing Baltimore's. Here a line of sparkling white urinals, with nary a person in sight, beckons.

Fans, a narrator points out, "will spend more time watching the game and less time waiting in line." There will be 70 washrooms at the new stadium, twice as many as at the old, the tape notes.

Then it's back to Memorial Stadium, and the same men standing in the same line.

"In all our focus groups, the very first issue, no matter what category we were talking about, was bathrooms," Modell said.

He said the tape, and other promotions being done by the team, highlight the things fans say affect their buying decisions. It turns out they have more on their minds than a nickel defense in the age of the $2,975 season ticket.

The Ravens are making extensive use of research to incorporate as much fan convenience as $200 million will buy. The new stadium, now taking shape adjacent to Oriole Park, is due to open in 1998, but tickets are being sold now as a package with Memorial Stadium tickets.

The videotape showcases architectural renderings of the new park, while not so politely contrasting it with the team's current home, the 43-year-old dowager on 33rd Street where the Colts played.

There are shots of happy Carolina fans meandering through the spacious concourses of their stadium, sipping beer and enjoying the view of Charlotte.

Interspersed are up-close glimpses of their Baltimore counterparts, shuffling shoulder to shoulder through dank, concrete passages, impatiently trying to get back to their seats to see the Ravens blow another lead.

A good word is put in for the new luxury seating planned for the Baltimore park. The sky-box experience, for example: "You'll feel you've stepped into someone's living room while your every need is catered to."

Forget the team's needs, like a defense. We're talking fans here, or, as the tape says, a stadium that "gives home-field advantage a whole new meaning -- not just for the football players, but for the fans."

Pub Date: 12/18/96

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