Orioles tickets going, going Not yet gone, they are selling faster than '97 despite price hike

January 31, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Despite an abrupt, across-the-board hike in ticket prices announced just before Christmas, demand for Orioles season tickets is outpacing the rush that pre- faced last season's 3.7 million attendance, according to vice chairman Joe Foss.

Coupled with the team's introduction of a six-game ticket package, fans will find single-game tickets to the June interleague series against the Atlanta Braves and a September showdown against the New York Yankees in short supply.

Single-game tickets go on sale this morning to coincide with the opening of FanFest at the Convention Center. But the Orioles already have sold 2.3 million tickets based largely on a 90 percent renewal rate by season-ticket holders, according to Foss.

After setting a franchise attendance record (3,711,132), the Orioles raised all their ticket prices, bumping the average ticket to more than $19. The club maintains the raise was necessary to offset an escalating payroll, revenue-sharing obligations and the loss of a $5 million expansion fee that helped explain why a team that played to regular sellouts and advanced through two rounds of playoffs made only $9 million.

Initially criticized as confiscatory, the bump has hardly dampened enthusiasm for an expected World Series contender. Foss said the Orioles project a break-even year financially if they do not reach the playoffs. Last season's postseason appearance accounted for $4 million of the club's profit.

"The decision certainly was not made in a vacuum. Our fans understood the necessity for it," said Foss, while acknowledging that the move initially elicited about 20 protest calls per day. "Some people in the media who may have been cynical, their cynicism was proved to be incorrect."

Foss said the renewal rate for season tickets historically falls around 95 percent. The Orioles next week will contact those who have yet to renew and then turn to a waiting list of 17,000, #F according to Foss.

The Orioles sold about 29,000 season-ticket packages last season. They have sold a little more than 26,000 for the upcoming season. Thus far, group sales have accounted for a total 300,987 tickets sold.

The club expects to surpass last year's run-up when more than 3 million tickets were sold before Opening Day, accounting for more than 80 percent of the season total.

The Orioles project 50,000 tickets will be sold via four "six-packs" that are constructed around the Braves and second Yankees series. Each package includes four weekday and two weekend games designed to help buttress demand for several less glitzy dates. The plan necessitates an additional 2,500 tickets be withheld from single-game purchasers; however, Foss estimates more than 4,000 single-game tickets will be made available for those "six-pack" dates today.

The six-pack concept was promoted last year by the Chicago White Sox, who attempted to force fans who wanted tickets for interleague games against the Cubs to also purchase tickets for other, unattractive games. They eventually discarded the concept.

"As I recall, they tried to force a connection to some very weak teams. We have not done that," said Foss.

Already committed to a $70 million payroll, the Orioles face 13 potential free agents after the 1998 season. Asked if the club could assure its fan base that ticket prices would not be raised a third consecutive year after next season, Foss hedged.

"We haven't played one game yet in '98. To be forecasting the economic conditions for '99 would be premature," he said.

O's FanFest

When: Today, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; tomorrow, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

What: Player autograph and photo sessions, clinics, exhibits, interactive games, fan forums and more.

Where: Baltimore Convention Center.

Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for kids 14 and younger.

Orioles tickets: Individual tickets for 1998 will go on sale today at 10 a.m. at the Orioles Box Office, at Pastimes Cafe and through Ticketmaster. Call 410-481-SEAT.

O's six-game plans

!

First base pack

Opponent .. .. .. Date

Kansas City .. .. Thu., April 2

Anaheim ... .. .. Tue., April 28

Atlanta ... .. .. Fri., June 5

Chicago (AL) . .. Mon., Aug. 31

Texas . ... .. .. Mon., Sept. 14

New York (AL) ... Sun., Sept. 20

Second base pack

Chicago (AL) . .. Tue., April 14

Anaheim ... .. .. Mon., April 27

Texas .. .. .. .. Thu., May 28

Atlanta ... .. .. Fri., June 6

Chicago (AL) . .. Wed., Sept. 2

New York (AL) ... Fri., Sept. 18

Third base pack

Kansas City .. .. Wed., April 1

Chicago (AL) . .. Thu., April 16

Atlanta ... .. .. Sun., June 7

Chicago (AL) . .. Tue., Sept. 1

Texas .. .. .. .. Tue., Sept. 15

New York (AL) ... Sat., Sept. 19

Home plate pack

Detroit ... .. .. Fri., April 3

Chicago (AL) . .. Wed., April 15

New York (AL) ... Wed., June 17

Seattle ... .. .. Sat., July 25

Minnesota . .. .. Mon., Aug. 17

Anaheim ... .. .. Fri., Sept. 11

Pub Date: 1/31/98

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