MAXWELL:  Deals make Rays games more affordable

7/5/2001 – Printed in the EDITORIAL section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper

 

My column of last Wednesday about local folks, including myself, not supporting the Devil Rays, generated a lot of mail and telephone calls.

A letter from Seminole resident Asheley Ulrich prompted me to write a follow-up, this time about the cost of taking the family out to the ball game:

I couldn’t agree with you more about the Devil Rays needing loyal local fans. My family and I have been following the Rays only since the end of May, as we have three young children (ages 8, 5, and 3) who are just now old enough to really be interested.

Our eldest, a girl, is the biggest fan in our house, she watches every televised game, pores over their Web site daily, and spouts off player stats more accurately than most men who are four times her age. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and she has made true fans out of the rest of us.

I believe there are plenty more children out there just like her, begging their parents to take them to the Trop. The problem is this, and the reason our family has yet to attend a home game: For the five of us to venture to the dome, park, get decent tickets, and enjoy refreshments while we are there, we can expect to be set back at least $125. For one afternoon. For a working middle-class family, this is a large sum.

We have promised our daughter that at some point this season, one of us will take her to a game (two tickets are cheaper than five!). But it will be some time before our family can afford to attend games together regularly. My guess is that the same is true for many families out there.

I spoke with Rick Vaughn, the team’s vice president for public relations, telling him about Ulrich’s concerns. Vaughn explained that fans _ especially those with children _ need to plan. Decide how much you want to spend, or can afford to spend, on parking, seats, food and drink, programs and team-related merchandise.

The bottom line? Beyond mandatory costs, how much do you want to spend? As single person who can enjoy the game from any seat, I can watch a game for $18. I spend $0 for parking because I park free and walk several blocks; $8 for a seat; $10 for two beers. (Hey, dude, a man’s got have his suds.)

Obviously, a family cannot see a game that cheaply. Major League Baseball uses Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index (FCI) to establish cost benchmarks for the game. The FCI tallies the total cost of two adult tickets, two children’s tickets, four small soft drinks, two small beers, four hot dogs, parking, two programs and two caps. The Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park tops the list at a whopping $214.32. In comparison, the total bill at the Trop would be $106.

For tickets, the Minnesota Twins offer the best bargain in the big leagues, with an average cost of $9.55. Industrywide, the average price of a ticket is $18.99, with the Red Sox leading the way at $36.08.

Here is the official price structure at the Trop: 64 percent of the seats are $14 or less, 37 percent are $10 or less and 30 percent are $8 or less. Vaughn said the Rays rank in the top five in all of Major League Baseball in 2001 among teams that offer the most discounted ticket plans. The Rays have 11 plans.

Here is a list of the Rays’ regular discounted ticket deals:

Half-price Mondays: All upper general admission (regularly $8) and outfield seats (regularly $14) are half price.

Tampa Tuesdays: Fans presenting a coupon from the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday issues of the Tampa Tribune can purchase $8 Upper General Admission for $3.

Web site Wednesdays: Fans can check the Rays official team Web site (www.devilray.com) for the Wednesday Special (posted Monday at noon). You can get Lower Reserved seats, regularly $23, for $10, and outfield seats, regularly $14, for $7.

St. Petersburg Times TGIF at the Trop: On Fridays, fans presenting a coupon from the Times receive a $10 ticket in The Beach and two 16-ounce sodas or beers.

St. Petersburg Times Family Funday: Fans presenting a coupon from the Times receive a lower deck outfield ticket, hot dog and Pepsi for $12 ($19.50 value) or an upper GA ticket for $3 ($8 value).

Seniors Day: On all non-holiday weekday afternoon games, seniors can enjoy a game by buying a lower deck outfield ticket and receive a hot dog and Pepsi for $12 or an upper GA ticket, hot dog and Pepsi for $7.

The kids’ concession stand sells Pepsis, hot dogs and brownies for $1.

I repeat Vaughn’s advice: Plan for the game. Set a budget and stick to it. Hey, the Rays should give Asheley Ulrich’s daughter an ambassadorial season ticket.