Ravens ticket-holders knew the score


May 18, 1998|By DAN RODRICKS

Two hundred and thirty-seven dollars. Per seat. Per game. J. David Norris, who lives in Anne Arundel County, wants us to say the words out loud: "Two hundred and thirty-seven dollars. Per seat. Per game." The man is in sticker shock over his Ravens season tickets, though at this point in Baltimore's football epoch it's hard to understand how he could have been unprepared for the bill.

Says right there on Pages 11 and 12 of a slick booklet published by the Ravens a year ago: The combined annual fee and season ticket price for a Club Level 2 seat is $2,375. Divide that by 10 games and, indeed, it comes to $237.50 per seat per game. That doesn't include the one-time $1,000 fee for a permanent seat license, either. Nor is it the top-out ticket price. A Club Level 1 seat is $2,975. That comes to $297.50 per seat per game. (But look on the bright side: Those prices are frozen for the Ravens' first three years in the new stadium! God be praised!)

Mr. J. David Norris has been involved in the Baltimore NFL Thing a long time. He goes back to the "Give Baltimore the Ball" campaign, one of many fans who put up money toward season tickets to show the National Football League that this city could pack a football stadium with eager paying customers. Later, when the Browns moved here from Cleveland, Norris and his wife paid $75 per seat per game for season tickets at Memorial Stadium. When it was time to put up $1,000 per seat for PSLs in the new stadium - to help Art Modell defray the $140 million cost of relocating his franchise to Baltimore (now there's a claim that gives us a smile) - Norris went along. But he did not think tickets comparable to those he had at Memorial Stadium would cost $237 per seat per game. He expected something in the $80 to $100 range.

But it's that Club Level business that boosts the price. Premium season tickets on the mezzanine level carry an annual fee beyond the ticket price. That gets you amenities - extra-wide seats with cup holders, exclusive access to an escalator, three club lounges with wide-screen television sets and plush seating, high-end food and booze options, attendant service, that kind of thing. I guess J. David Norris, whose perspective had been based on the "overpriced" $75 seat at Memorial Stadium, wasn't ready for this. He describes himself as a "retired federal employee with limited income."

I'll admit some sympathy for the man. The whole system of PSLs, lottery drawings, preferences and season tickets seemed Byzantine. And once I started to see Ravens prices and hear about that PSL business, I knew this was not going to be a market for me.

I'm sure thousands of Baltimoreans reacted the same way, some quite bitterly. But J. David Norris has been an active fan, it seems, and for a while. He probably should have paid closer attention when he signed on the dotted line.

Now he's asked the Ravens for his money back. "I do not want to be a part of this rip-off," he says.

Look, if you view this as a rip-off, then we're all complicit to some degree. We wanted the NFL here. ("Be careful what you wish for . . . ") We built the Ravens a $220 million stadium. We're letting them sell the name of the stadium. We're letting them charge PSLs. This isn't a public team. It's Art Modell's team. He, like Peter Angelos with the Orioles, can do whatever he wants, charge whatever he wants. As long as everyone knows that going in, then what's with the bellyaching?

Still, if a man wants a refund, I say give him his refund. It's not like the Ravens will have problems selling tickets. Let me bottom-line this: Despite all the grumbling about prices, about 51,000 seats have been assigned to 20,000 customers who PTC agreed to buy a PSL.

Ah: Gadda, yadda, yadda

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