It's game of inches in Ravens' seats, too Width varies to fit curve, to dismay of some fans

Stadium Watch

September 01, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Helen Alexander and her friends thought that the four adjacent seats they purchased in the upper deck of the new Ravens stadium at Camden Yards would give them all, roughly, the same accommodations.

Not so.

Thanks to a quirk in stadium building that promises a similar surprise for fans throughout the stands, adjacent seats aren't necessarily the same size.

For example, the set of four seats that include Alexander's features chairs of two different widths, even though they are right next to each other. Alexander's shiny purple chair is 19 inches wide, while the other three seats in her group are each 21 inches wide.

She hadn't noticed the difference until it was pointed out. And she still thought she was better off than at Memorial Stadium. But she felt she should have known before buying.

"Overall they are larger than Memorial Stadium and far more comfortable. But I think we should have been informed," said Alexander, of Randallstown.

The reason the seats don't all match has to do with the vagaries of stadium building. Getting nearly 70,000 seats to fit into rows that curve around a field can be surprisingly unpredictable, and the installers make use of narrow seats in some spots to make a row fit.

"The reason you do that is so you don't have a funny gap at the end of the row," said Alice Hoffman, project manager for the Maryland Stadium Authority, which built the place.

Seats of varying width are sprinkled throughout the stadium. On the upper and lower decks, a given chair, measured from the center of one armrest to the center of the other, can be 19 inches, 20 inches or 21 inches. On the pricey club level, the seats are mostly 21 inches, with some as wide as 22 inches and 23 inches tossed in.

Ravens director of ticket operations Roy Sommerhof said the team hasn't gotten complaints about the disparities. All of their sales materials guaranteed seats of at least 19 inches, he said.

"If you got a wider one, it was the luck of the draw," Sommerhof said.

All the seats seem roomier than the old ones at Memorial Stadium, where the chairs were each 17 inches across. More zTC importantly, the standard for leg room between rows has grown in the nearly five decades since the 33rd Street stadium was built.

But some fans think they should have been told more specifically what they were buying, especially because their "permanent seat licenses" tie them to the seats for years to come.

"People in the world come in different sizes," Alexander said.

Pub Date: 9/01/98

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