Prices rising for Orioles' best tickets

About 6,000 field box seats to increase 28 percent for season-ticket holders

`It's basically supply and demand'

No change in upper deck

Orioles say 40 percent of seats will cost $18 or less

January 29, 2004|By Ed Waldman | Ed Waldman,SUN STAFF

Trying to boost revenues yet keep the cost of a day at the ballpark affordable for families, the Orioles have raised the price of their best seats by more than 28 percent while holding the line on more than half the tickets at Camden Yards.

Matt Dryer, the Orioles' senior director of advertising and promotions, said that all upper-deck seats will cost the same this year as last. He said that 19,000 seats, or about 40 percent of the 48,190-seat ballpark, will cost $18 or less.

"All we did was raise the areas that year after year after year, regardless of team performance, sell well over 95 to 99 percent of the time," Dryer said.

The approximately 6,000 field boxes between the bases will go from $35 to $45 for season-ticket holders.

Prices for seats between the bases on the club level have been raised $5, to $45. Other club-level seat prices will remain the same as last year.

"It's basically supply and demand," Dryer said. "And we looked at what other teams in baseball were getting, not just the Yankees and Red Sox, but everybody, and saw that our $35 tickets are way undervalued, especially for a ballpark that year after year when these polls come out is ranked as one of the top three ballparks in the country."

The Orioles have raised prices for lower-level seats from between $2 to $5 for season-ticket holders, and as much as $8 when tickets are sold individually.

Two weeks ago, Orioles representatives at the International Auto Show handed out a price list that showed the 2004 price for field boxes to be $55 for season-ticket holders and $75 for individual ticket buyers. The Orioles said that price structure was one of several being considered and was mistakenly released.

On the price list sent to season-ticket holders this week, field boxes and club boxes are listed as "sold out" beside the season ticket price. In the column for individual tickets, those seats are listed as "season only," as are some terrace box seats.

Dwyer said that while a small number of field boxes may become available for individual game sales from season-ticket holders who return them, the price will be "nowhere near" $75.

David Cope, a former marketing executive with the Orioles and other area teams, said that raising ticket prices for the best seats is "probably a smart thing to do, objectively."

But the public relations issue makes it hard, he said. The Orioles are raising prices for the customers who have been with them the longest and who spend the most money.

"However, that's when you look at it as a business," said Cope, director of business development for Bethesda-based Gilco Sports & Entertainment Marketing.

"I'm sure they've done their homework and they realize that, though some people may complain and might not like the price increase, I'm betting because of the quality of the seat that they're raising the price on, they're either going to get those existing fans to renew or they're going to have someone waiting in the wings to purchase that seat."

For the past three or four years, Glenn Evans, owner of a Baltimore-based textbook writing company, has bought a share of four season tickets in Section 42, almost directly behind home plate, about 12 rows from the field.

"They are great seats, and they do impress those clients who care," said Evans, of Monkton, who has tickets for 20 games.

But, he said, he is close to the "tipping point" on whether he will buy the seats for 2004.

"I am going to give it a very hard look," he said. "Now you're probably pushing $230, $240 for an evening's entertainment."

The Orioles last raised most of their ticket prices 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.

That doesn't hold much weight with Evans.

"I think they're on very thin ice," he said. "More and more it's become an evening's entertainment that only corporations can afford. Corporations are really not die-hard fans.

"It's the guy who takes his kids out there and loves the game. And I think less and less of those folks can afford it."

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.

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