No '08 price hike

Organization confirms that it will not raise costs next season, though '09 increase to be considered

Tickets

December 29, 2007|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun Reporter

Sure, the Ravens are on a franchise-record nine-game losing streak that has sent them wobbling, like a poorly thrown pass, into last place in the AFC North. Sure, they haven't won since before Halloween.

But Ravens fans, who have had little to savor on the field, can at least be cheered by the news - confirmed by the club this week - that ticket prices won't be increasing in 2008.

A hollow victory? Perhaps. But in a season in which victories are as rare as blocked punts, you take good news where you can get it. The team is 4-11 heading into tomorrow's final game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

Like many Ravens fans, Randy Schools says it's easier to digest a price increase when the team is coming off a successful season.

That's what happened last season. The Ravens finished 13-3 in the regular season, then announced in February that the average ticket would rise to $82.14, up from the previous season's $66.14.

"You come off a winning season and you feel like you're paying for it," said Schools, of Rockville. And he's OK with that.

But if the team sought to raise prices again after this smackdown of a season, "then I wouldn't appreciate it," Schools said.

Some fans might be surprised to learn that Ravens executives don't base their ticket-price decisions on the club's performance on the field.

The calculation is based on budget needs.

"We're looking at what our costs are and trying to stay competitive around the league to make sure we have enough money in terms of acquiring and retaining players," Ravens president Dick Cass said. "And we also look at what other teams are charging for tickets."

Cass said the team's record isn't a factor, even when it's particularly disappointing or impressive.

"I don't think we said, `We were 13-3 [last season] and can really pile on this year,'" he said.

Some teams have had public relations problems because they raised ticket prices at seemingly the wrong time.

In 2006, the Washington Redskins raised parking from $25 to $35 and boosted ticket prices by an NFL-high 17.2 percent, according to the annual Fan Cost Index published by Team Marketing Report in Chicago. Then the team finished 5-11, angering some fans.

"After the prices went up, I did hear a lot of grumbling from fellow fans, (and rightfully so) and many said that they would not renew," Redskins fan Rick Poch of Glen Burnie said in an e-mail interview at the time.

It remains to be seen whether any Ravens fans will revolt because of this year's losing season. The Ravens, whose ticket prices rank in the middle of the NFL, sell out all their games.

"I think most of our fans understand you're going to have a losing season from time to time," Cass said. "Ultimately, fans can walk with their feet. They can decide not to buy their season ticket or they can sell their PSL [personal seat license] and move on. We don't want that to happen, and we're doing everything we can so they won't move on. I don't think fans will leave us because of one year."

The Ravens raised ticket prices in 2003, 2005 and 2007. The team explained the 2007 increase by saying it spent $25 million over the salary cap to sign several star players.

The club says it has spent about $3 million a year on improvements to M&T Bank Stadium over the past four years.

The Ravens told fans in February that there were no plans to raise prices for 2008. Cass confirmed that this week.

But Cass also confirmed what seemed inevitable. He said "we will consider" an increase before the 2009 season.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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