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March 24, 2008

Don't Meet Me in St. Louis

Freealonzo sent me an interesting article from Elysian Fields Quarterly. Here is a snippet. I encourage you to read the whole thing:

In spite of the wonderful time I had at the SABR convention, I did not enjoy the "ballpark" experience that I had at Busch Stadium. You would think that my $27 pavilion box seat ($30 from a scalper) would have guaranteed me a good seat at the Cardinals' new $355 million playpen, but that was not the case. The pavilion box is essentially the upper deck in left field, and for what might cost me $10 in another stadium (and $7 at the Metrodome), I had a clear view of about 80 percent of the stadium. Naturally, one couldn't see any of the plays occurring in left field or in the left field corner. Okay, I thought, this is a complete rip-off, but it's a beautiful evening and Mathew and I did this kind of on a whim. Tomorrow night we'll be in the lower deck as part of the huge SABR contingent; that will be the game where we get the great view of the park and really feel like we're at a ball game. Or so I thought.

Turns out that our $34 outfield loge boxes (for which SABR got a $10 discount per ticket) were no better. We didn't see the left fielder all game—except when he was trotting to and from the dugout—and having to wait for the crowd to react to know what was happening in left field greatly diminished the night's experience. Baseball can argue all it wants that the oval cookie-cutter stadiums of the 1960s weren't good baseball venues, but I guarantee you there were far more good seats in Busch Memorial Stadium than in what can now only be described as the standard HOK brick and steel retro park replacement ... Three to four thousand lousy seats (and that estimate may be low) in a stadium with a forty-six thousand capacity may not seem like much, but it's inexcusable given the sizable public investment involved and the millions of dollars of legislative time that was devoted to the issue.

In the grand scheme of things—i.e., the war in Iraq, the tragedy in Darfur, etc.—I would never suggest that paying exorbitant prices for tickets to a ball game is something worth spending a lot of time belly-aching about. (In fact, the $16 bleacher seats at field level—apparently sold out for the games we attended—were absolutely stunning in comparison to the grossly overpriced pavilion and loge seats in left.) And yet, I would argue that this whole process of shaking down the public for extravagant new stadiums that are geared almost exclusively to the affluent is symptomatic of the larger ills that lead to war, famine, and the like. America may be good at a lot of things, but what we seem especially adept at these days is fleecing the public to benefit the few, and that's completely inimical to the egalitarian heritage that set baseball apart from the rest of the spectator sports. It's no wonder that the gap between the haves and have-nots widens at the ballpark; it's been happening for decades in the real world.

What I've been told is that taking care of the fat cats, with their extra wide seats and catering service, will mean more cheap seats for the rest of us. In other words, the more some people pay at the ballpark will mean less that I will have to pay for my own ballpark experience.

The more stuff I read like this, though, the more pessimistic I get. However, I still feel it is our responsibility to keep the pressure on.

There is a chance that our ballpark will be completely fan friendly, not just for the fat cats but also the rabble that do most of the working, living, and dying in this town.

I still have hope, but my hope has a price limit.

Posted by snackeru at March 24, 2008 8:22 AM

Comments

The author is an avowed opponent of ballpark public financing and generally does not care for luxury suites, club seats, etc. So understand his bias when you read his take. Pretty compelling nonetheless.

Did you see that Denard Span was sent to the minors today? The Go Go Gomez era is upon us.

Posted by: Freealonzo at March 24, 2008 12:58 PM

Did anyone else read Top Jimmy today?

Good to see he's back to his normal self after almost sounding positive on Easter Sunday.

Posted by: Snyder at March 24, 2008 2:31 PM

To be fair, the author's "bias" against public financing is probably more of an effect of the shrinking, increasingly expensive and "elitist" new ballparks of the past two decades, rather than the cause of an overly-slanted perspective.

If the author is anything like me (and he certainly sounds like it!), he would not have serious qualms with public financing for new facilities that better serve the general public.


Posted by: spycake at March 24, 2008 3:49 PM

I went to a game at the new Busch the year it opened. I must have heard 5 or 6 different people say, over the course of one game, "Sure some of the features nice, but I definitely prefer the old stadium."

It was like they tried to cram in so many superfluous features and cater so much to the bigwigs that the designers forgot to actually, you know, make it a baseball park.

Posted by: Will Young at March 24, 2008 10:27 PM

Isn't HOK building the Twin's new ballpark? They better get this one right!

Posted by: Jim at March 24, 2008 11:26 PM

Spycake is making more and more sense every day. i just checked out prices at Miller Park and the cheapest ticket is $15 for the crappy Bernie's Terrace tix. Especially for a City that is relatively low on the median household income scales (at least for a "Major League City") this is pretty steep.

Posted by: Freealonzo at March 25, 2008 10:17 AM

However, that is Miller Park. The crown jewel of MLB stadiums. $15 is a pittance to enjoy a game in that venue.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at March 25, 2008 11:44 AM

There are many wonderful things about Miller Park.

Bernie's Terrace at $15 a pop is not one of them.

Posted by: Freealonzo at March 25, 2008 1:22 PM

But how much is a beer at Miller Park? That's the more pressing question!

Posted by: Snyder at March 25, 2008 2:18 PM

To be fair, the $15 Bernie's Terrace ticket is for the Brewers' "Marquee" games (but can a game really be "marquee" if it features the Brewers? ;) ). To quote their web site:

Marquee Games include Opening Day, the seven games against the Chicago Cubs and the June 13-15 series against the Minnesota Twins.

So, for the other 70 games at Miller Park, those seats are only $8, although that's only two sections in the stadium, and the next-cheapest tickets are $14-$18. They do offer ~100 obstructed-view "Uecker seats" two hours before gametime for $1 each, but these sell out fast. And their ticket promotions seem few and far between, although these two seems promising, albeit limited:

During the second homestand of the season from April 23-27, the "5-County, 5-Day Celebration" will get underway. All residents of Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, Racine and Milwaukee Counties can purchase tickets for half-price at the Box Office on all reserved seats (excluding the Miller Lite Beerpen and the $1 Uecker Seats). During the weekend of Mother's Day against the Cardinals (May 9-12), the Brewers will host "Spring Madness" at Miller Park with all seats priced at $26 and less available at half price (excluding the Uecker seats). For these four games, small Pepsi products and hot dogs will be just $1 each.

I hope the Twins regular weeknight ticket specials don't find themselves relegated to one weekend a year in the new park, or eliminated entirely, but I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: spycake at March 25, 2008 2:56 PM

Cross posted at Stick and ball guy:

Anyone interested in the Twins Golden Ticket contest? 4 clues out already. Click my name for a discussion of the clues. Three years ago I was in the same park as the ticket but couldn't spend the time to look for it and it was found later that day. Usually by Thursday or Friday there's enough clues to figure it out so we have to act fast.

Posted by: Freealonzo at March 26, 2008 8:57 AM

I'm worried less about how much tickets will cost and more about what kind of ticket plans will be offered. I sure hope some kind of Flex 40 plan will still be available.

I finally got my vouchers yesterday and I'm pretty excited for the season to get underway!

Posted by: Snyder at March 26, 2008 8:39 PM

"Flex 40" gives you vouchers that can be redeemed in any combination at any game, right? With the new park an almost guaranteed near-sellout for the first few seasons, I highly doubt that ticket plan structure would be feasible.

The Twins have to offer flexible plans like this, and daily ticket specials, just to get respectable attendance in the Dome. With the new park, though, you're going to have to lock in full-price tickets for specific games well in advance... at least until the "new ballpark smell" wears off and/or the team seriously struggles.

Posted by: spycake at March 27, 2008 12:55 PM

Yes, that's pretty much how the Flex 40 plan works. They sell for different amounts depending on what section you're in. Mine are in Home Run Porch.

I guess my thinking is that if the new ballpark pricing is as outrageous as some fear, the "near-sellout" may not be as guaranteed as anticipated, though I do expect average attendance for the season to be much higher than in the Dome.

I also don't think the Flex 40 plan is offered so much as a response to the Dome as to the extremely-long MLB schedule and the difficulty of managing a package of 81 games, though playing outdoors for a change should mitigate the competition from other summertime activities.

I really wish the Timberwolves would come up with something like this too, perhaps with some limitations in place for "marquee" opponents like Lakers or Celtics. I bought a 10-game package for this season and two or three of them ended up clashing with the Gopher men's basketball home games that I also had tickets for. Auuuggghhh!

Posted by: Snyder at March 27, 2008 1:39 PM

Here's a link to ballpark digest's review of Busch III. The Twins' ballpark better get it right.
http://ballparkdigest.com/visits/busch_stadium.htm

Posted by: LRW at March 29, 2008 11:19 PM

EAT SNOW! Open air stadium lovers.

Posted by: mullen at March 30, 2008 10:03 PM

DON'T EAT THE YELLOW SNOW!

Just a public service announcement.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at March 31, 2008 9:08 AM

Snyder --

You're probably right about the intent of the Flex Plan. I did some digging, and a few other MLB clubs also have flex tickets plans, although it appears some (like Cleveland's) require you to pick your games in advance, or have other restrictions.

I do think the Twins will be less inclined to offer such a favorable or "flexible" Flex deal, at least for the first few years of the park. Even if every game isn't a near-sellout, the Twins have ~8,000 fewer seats to sell -- good deals on more expensive reserved seats like the Flex Plan are in part trying to draw customers away from the plentiful general admission cheap seats. If the $20-$25 HR porch ticket is virtually the lowest-priced ticket in the new stadium, how much incentive are the Twins going to have to discount it?

Posted by: spycake at March 31, 2008 3:46 PM

One other note: I notice the Twins have essentially eliminated the Friday/Saturday "Family Pack" deals this season. Formerly, you could get a Dome Dog and soda with your HR Porch ticket purchase (and a few years ago, you got a program and parking voucher too!) -- now you just get a Cub Foods or Dairy Queen coupon.

This doesn't bode well for affordable family ticket packages at the new park.

Posted by: spycake at March 31, 2008 3:51 PM

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