Prices for seats on the field may go up 67% at Camden

Proposal is one of many considered, Orioles say

January 17, 2004|By Ed Waldman | Ed Waldman,SUN STAFF

The Orioles are considering raising the price of their best seats by nearly 67 percent, according to a list that the team says was made public before this year's ticket rates have been finalized.

That price list is only one of a number still under consideration, the Orioles said yesterday. Spokesman Bill Stetka said the prices on that list were the highest of the remaining options.

According to the list, which was mistakenly distributed Thursday by Orioles representatives at the International Auto Show, field box seats that were $45 when sold individually last season would be $75 this year. Season-ticket holders, who paid $40 each for the seats last year, would be charged $55, a 37.5 percent increase.

The Orioles strongly denied that this season's prices are final and said the ticket representatives at the auto show were supposed to be handing out schedules.

"Somebody ran with it before they were supposed to," Stetka said. "It was an unfortunate case of internal miscommunication."

However, Stetka acknowledged that "it may end up that those are the prices."

David Cope, a former marketing executive for the Orioles and other area teams, said that although $75 is a lot for a baseball ticket, it's not too much for this market.

"If there's limited quantity, I have every confidence there is the demand for those seats, especially with the off-season moves that they've made," said Cope, director of business development for Bethesda-based Gilco Sports & Entertainment Marketing, referring to the high-profile acquisitions of shortstop Miguel Tejada, catcher Javy Lopez, first baseman Rafael Palmeiro and pitcher Sidney Ponson.

Staggered pricing

Stetka said that the Orioles have about 6,000 field boxes between the bases and that about 2,500 to 3,000 of them would have an individual-game price of $75 under the plan distributed Thursday. The vast majority of field boxes are sold as season tickets.

For the first time, the Orioles would price some prime sections by proximity to the field. For example, the first nine or 10 rows of field boxes between the bases would be $75 for individual games; the next 10 rows, $65; and the remaining rows, $55. For season-ticket holders, those prices would be $55, $50 and $45, respectively.

Cleveland has used that type of pricing since 2001, according to Curtis Danburg, the Indians' manager of media relations. At Jacobs Field, first-row field boxes are $50 for an individual game, second- through sixth-row field boxes are $45, and the rest of the field boxes are $40.

Stetka said Orioles research showed that the major league average for a field box in the first 10 rows was $75.70. Only eight teams had lower average prices than the Orioles' $45.

Not all prices would be raised under the plan that was accidentally distributed. Four sections of club-level seats would drop from $40 to $30, and prices would remain the same for many lower reserved, upper reserved and lower box seats.

Previous increases

The last time the Orioles raised most of their ticket prices was before the 2002 season, when the costs for 80 percent of the seats at Camden Yards increased.

Before that, the team had gone from 1998 to 2001 without raising prices. They were the only team in the major leagues that didn't increase ticket costs during that time. Before the 2001 season, the team had decided to raise prices but reversed its decision after losing pitcher Mike Mussina in free agency.

Last year, the team raised prices on individual game tickets for a few premium seats.

The Orioles' average ticket price last season was $18.23 - 13th among the 30 major league teams and just below the sport's overall average of $18.81, according to Team Marketing Report, a Chicago-based trade publication. The Boston Red Sox had the top average ticket price, $42.34.

`They're the Orioles'

"It's probably a good thing that they've raised their ticket prices," said Becky Vallett, executive editor of Team Marketing Report. "They are below the Major League Baseball average and have been for the last several years. And they're the Orioles. They've been around for a long time. They have a great history - they had Cal Ripken."

Vallett also said a $75 ticket price is in line with that of other teams "if you take into account the legacy, the quality of the play and the beautiful stadium they play in."

No ticket prices were available yesterday at the team's auto show booth, which is wedged between a registration table and the Army National Guard exhibit in the Baltimore Convention Center.

'Hard to justify'

Fans interviewed near the booth said they weren't happy that ticket prices apparently will be going up, especially because the team's payroll isn't.

Steve Braverman, 43, of Odenton has had four terrace box seats in Section 39 for the past 10 years. Last year, those seats were $27; in the proposed plan, they would be $35.

"I'd really have to think about renewing at that price," he said. "It's like a $2,400 increase over the season. And that's hard to justify, especially since their salary structure looks like it is going to be about the same. I have really good seats and I'd hate to lose them, but that is a lot of money."

Daryl Hancock, 42, of Crofton said he has had some type of ticket plan for the past five years. Last year, he said, he paid $35 each for field box seats in Section 58 under a 13-game plan. The price list that was distributed shows those seats at $50.

"I have a sneaking suspicion that it's not going be that much," he said.

"They can talk about upgrades all they want, but I don't want to hear the reason that they are raising tickets is because they signed Miguel Tejada to play shortstop. They are fielding a team that is cheaper than the one last season."

Sun staff writer Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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