Hot ticket item: upset Ravens fans Hundreds see seats, ask club to be moved

August 04, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Several hundred Ravens fans, seeing their seats at the new stadium for the first time at Thursday's open house, have asked the team to move them to a new location.

The team is processing these complaints on a case-by-case basis and has provided new seats to some customers and told others that there is nothing that can be done. Top priority is being given to people who found railings blocking their view, followed by fans with medical disabilities for whom the trek to the upper deck is too arduous.

"We anticipated this," said Roy Sommerhof, director of ticket operations for the team.

In fact, the team arranged for a city police officer to be on hand at the downtown offices on Friday, when many fans came in person. Sommerhof said it was a precaution because "sometimes people get a little crazy."

Fans are being asked to fill out surveys listing their complaints and requests and the team is going through them one by one, he said. About 200 people had complained as of yesterday morning.

The team held an open house for season-ticket holders Thursday night, attracting 36,000.

Making the issue all the more important for fans is that they haven't simply bought season tickets for one season, they have invested in permanent seat licenses. A seat license, required of most season-ticket holders, enables and requires its holder to buy season tickets for each of the next 30 seasons or forfeit the license. The licenses cost $200 to $3,000, and average $1,136.

Among those who stopped by the team offices downtown yesterday was Milburn Woodlon, 67, of Baltimore. He bought a single seat license in the upper deck. But he wasn't prepared for its height: 96 to 156 feet above field level, depending on the row.

"The view was great, but it was a little high for me. I got woozy," Woodlon said.

The team agreed to swap his seat license from section 539 in the upper deck to 107 in the lower. This was an upgrade for which Woodlon had to pay extra, but he said it was worthwhile.

A younger customer, Jody Bopst of Sykesville, didn't do as well. She had upper deck seats at Memorial Stadium and wasn't prepared for the elevation at the new park -- which is 30 feet higher. She requested a swap for similarly priced licenses in the end zone, which are still for sale.

But the team said no.

"We're not happy with how high up we are. We didn't like having to walk that high. We're upset. If they have PSLs available they should let us swap," she said.

Sommerhof said the team is moving first to relocate fans with seats blocked by the silver-colored railings. The view from a first-row seat in the upper level is horizontally bisected by the railing at the Ravens' stadium. A common problem at all stadiums, it is being avoided at Cleveland's new NFL facility with the use of thick, see-through glass partitions instead of traditional railings.

In Baltimore, these fans are being relocated, if possible, to other available seats nearby, Sommerhof said. "We want to take care of them first," he said. The obstructed view seats will be sold on a game-by-game basis with the buyer warned in advance, he said.

Fans complaining of heart conditions or other medical maladies also are being considered for relocation.

Among those was Patrick Riley of Catonsville, who stopped in the Ravens' offices yesterday to swap his four upper-deck seats for some in the lower level. The reason: His mother has a heart condition that makes climbing stairs and ramps difficult.

He said the team readily agreed to the swap and, because the new seats were cheaper, refunded the difference in the price. "Everybody's been great about it," he said.

At some point the team may institute a registry of people wanting to swap or sell licenses -- something it was doing informally during Friday's rush. But until the team sells out its inventory, it doesn't plan on facilitating resales on a large scale, Sommerhof said.

About 54,000 licenses have been sold, out of about 62,000 that were offered. More than 100 were sold at Thursday's event and subsequent days.

The team plans to reserve 6,000 seats at every game for single-game seats, in addition to some withheld for visiting teams and other internal uses.

Counting both seat-license seats and game-day ones, about 9,000 tickets are still available for Saturday's stadium-opening preseason game against the Chicago Bears.

The official opener, against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 6, has been sold out by lottery. Single-game seats for subsequent games go on sale Aug. 15.

For folks simply unhappy with their new digs, the team probably will be able to do very little, Sommerhof said.

"We'll look at them, but probably won't be able to help them. We have to remember people make choices in their daily lives," he said.

People requesting a relocation or other information about Ravens tickets can call the team at 410-261-RAVE.

Pub Date: 8/04/98

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