Easier resale of game tickets

Bill would lift ban within mile of Camden Yards

April 17, 2007|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun reporter

Scoring last-minute tickets to an Orioles or Ravens game would be as easy as a stroll downtown under a bill introduced in the City Council yesterday that would lift a prohibition against reselling tickets within a mile of the Camden Yards sports complex.

Supporters said they hope the measure would boost the Orioles' lagging attendance by making it easier for ticket holders to unload their extra tickets among the throngs of fans outside the park, rather than throwing them out and leaving seats empty.

"Lots of people have bought their tickets already ... and they can't use them. They can't get rid of them," said City Councilman James B. Kraft, lead sponsor of the legislation. "This is very fan-friendly and consumer-friendly."

The proposal only allows sales at or below the face value of tickets - keeping the scalping of tickets in the area illegal.

Opening up the streets around Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium to ticket vendors runs counter to recent trends in the so-called secondary ticket market, which has increasingly relied on the Internet rather than scalpers trolling sidewalks with handmade signs.

Nearly half of National Football League teams, including the Ravens, have agreements with online ticket companies.

Spokespeople with two of those companies, StubHub and TicketsNow, argued that consumers are increasingly wary of buying tickets on the street - for good reason.

"Who wants to buy from the guy in the trench coat?" said Sean Pate, with StubHub, which guarantees that tickets sold through its site are legitimate. "On the street, you're always open to a little more lack of security and a little more limitation on what you're actually shopping for."

The Orioles reported selling 2,153,139 tickets last year, 42 percent less than the record 3,711,132 for the team's 1997 winning season. Actual attendance is likely far lower - and that is the number Kraft hopes the bill will address. If reselling tickets was easier, he said, fewer would go unused.

The team has for years offered a "scalp free zone" on Camden Street where sellers can unload tickets with team representatives and city police nearby. Kraft said buyers are required to sign a log to enter that zone, which he said is prohibitive.

In the case of the Orioles, it is unclear what the demand is for tickets sold on the street, given that there usually are seats at the box office before the game. However, the box office doesn't reduce the price of tickets once the game begins.

Maryland law does not deal with the reselling of tickets, but Baltimore City code prohibits scalping and also establishes the one-mile perimeter around the sports complex. Under current law, no ticket - at any price - can be sold in that area.

Kraft's bill would not lift the prohibition against scalping, so ticket sellers still would not be allowed to charge more than face-value. At a meeting yesterday, several council members questioned how well the city could enforce the scalping law if ticket sellers were scattered throughout downtown.

Orioles officials declined to comment on the proposal, but a spokesman for the Ravens said he did not believe the bill would have much of an effect on ticket sales. The team partnered with TicketsNow last May to make the online marketer the club's "official and exclusive" secondary marketplace.

"I don't think the current law or the [proposed] law would have much of an impact on our fans," said spokesman Kevin Byrne. "Clearly, there is a secondary market for tickets, but we have found that most of that's done online."

City Council Vice President Robert W. Curran, the chairman of the public safety subcommittee, said he expects to schedule a hearing on the bill this month. If approved by the committee, the legislation could face final vote by the council in May.

Kraft said he has been thinking about the bill for years but decided to pursue the idea while attending spring training this year. During the trip, he said, he went to a party at which several team sponsors suggested that there should be a better way to resell tickets that would otherwise be trashed.

"I came back, and I looked at the code and I thought, `This is simple,'" he said. "As long as the scalping provisions stay in, you should be able to go down and sell your ticket at face value or less."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

Ticket access

A proposal pending in the City Council would allow ticket holders to sell their Orioles and Ravens tickets for face value or less outside the Camden Yards sports complex, a measure that proponents hope will spur baseball attendance. Current law prohibits the sale of tickets within a one-mile radius of the complex.

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