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Tropicana Field has so little going for it. It’s the only
non-retractable roof dome left in major league baseball, and the game is played
on artificial turf to boot. Now that the Rays have let Carl Crawford go, it’s
doubtful that the team will be contending like they did not long ago, leaving
fewer reasons to attend the place.
So the Rays, like most teams in baseball, have to offer
special enticements to get people to sit in the worst seats in the venue. In
this case those seats are called the tbt* Party Deck, formerly known as the
Beach. The tbt* stands for Tampa Bay Times, a free tabloid-style newspaper arm
of the St. Petersburg Times. I still have no idea what the asterisk means.
These seats are in the highest level in left field; imagine
the view from the Green Monster seats at Fenway without the prestigious experience.
They are also excluded from the rest of the ballpark, meaning people with other
tickets can’t get in and you can’t get out. Not to mention that they’re bench
seats, great for touching cheeks with your neighbor.
So what’s the advantage of the tbt* Party Deck? Well, they
cost the same as the upper reserved tickets and are as such the cheapest seats
in the Trop. But the Rays also hosted special events there in 2010, like
College Night on non-prime Friday games, where you get a ticket for $5 and
10-ounce beers for $1 with a valid college ID. Or Networking Nights on
Thursdays, where your company can sign up and then give employees a code word for
a ticket and some networking opportunities with Rays people. Groups can pay a flat fee and get
free beer and food for their group throughout the game.
The tbt* Party Deck also features the “All You Care To Eat”
nights, which seems to be the standard dangling carrot to get fans to sit in lousy
seats for a sub-.500 team. Only $55! Is that even a bargain at ballpark food prices?
The tbt* Party Deck seats are the worst seats in one of baseball’s
But you know what’s cool about baseball? You still see
people sitting in these seats. There seems to be a sense of belonging here. In
the same way that the super-royal-Legendary-Lexus box seats in the newer
ballparks give people a sense of belonging to an exclusive club distinguished
entirely by income level. Why pay $500 more to bond with someone? It is, after
all, still a ballgame.
I think I know which group I’d rather hang out with. A cell
phone addicted salesman who is still hashing out major deals in the top of
the sixth of a one-run game with two men on is not my type of ballgame
College kids could go just about anywhere outdoors in
Florida and have a better party atmosphere. People could network anywhere in
the Ybor City area in Tampa or somewhere in downtown St. Petersburg. But for
whatever reason, they’d rather go to a ballgame and sit miles away from the
action in an indoor stadium with artificial turf.
That’s my kind of fan.
There isn’t any question that attending a ballgame is more expensive than it used to be, especially when you throw in the cost of food and parking. But some teams are really cutting some bargains for fans.
Some time ago I wrote about $1 seats for Braves games. They weren’t the best seats, obviously, but who’s complaining for a dollar?
It turns out that the Milwaukee Brewers also offer their fans an opportunity to see a game for a dollar, in the humorously named “Uecker Seats”.
I’m dating myself with this, but I remember the Miller Lite commercial featuring “Mr. Baseball” Bob Uecker, in which he gets ousted out of his seat (to which his reaction is “I must be in the front rooooow!”) and placed in the worst seats in the ballpark, where he screams at the umpire.
It was funny, and the Brewers picked up on it when they opened Miller Park in 2001, declaring the highest seats behind home plate the “Uecker Seats”. These seats are blocked by pillars that hold up a portion of the ballpark’s massive roof, so sitting here closer to the aisles means a partially obstructed view.
But the seats are just four quarters in price. You can’t beat that.
In order to get a Uecker Seat, you have to get in line and buy them at the box office, pay cash, and enter the ballpark directly after buying the ticket. If you have a group they need to be with you.
Once you’re in the ballpark, you can stand just about anywhere, and many people simply move to a better seat during the game. From what I’ve read, the enforcement is somewhat lax on poaching a better seat, especially on a night with low attendance. But if you’re not close to the aisles, the view from the Uecker Seats can be perfectly acceptable.
Some teams, even (now) good teams like the Brewers, really do a lot to make games more affordable for fans. You’d be surprised at what you can find.
Wrigley Field is the second oldest major league ballpark in America, with only Fenway Park in Boston being its senior. Both ballparks are such grand old girls that most baseball fans consider them a must for the bucket list to visit them. Having been to three games in both, I heartily agree. Both are wonderful.
But both ballparks were built before that whole “open concourses with trusses” became prevalent in ballpark architecture, and as such the upper decks in both parks are held up by support poles. These support poles, of course, can cause a serious view problem to someone sitting in the wrong seat.
The Cubs and Red Sox do stamp the words “obstructed view” on certain seat tickets, but both clubs will not say as much unless the support pole nearly blocks the view of the entire infield.
Some time ago I wrote about the “Precise Seating” website, which gives a description of nearly every seat at Fenway Park. While working on the coming Wrigley Field E-Guide, I came upon a similar (although very different in layout) website giving the scoop on seats at Wrigley.
Matt Motyko at WrigleyGuide clearly put a great deal of effort into showing fans how they can avoid being behind the dreaded support poles at The Friendly Confines. In a similar fashion to Precise Seating, the Wrigley Guide shows where a seat is on a seating chart, with the location of the poles marked so you have a good idea whether you will be behind one.
This is an invaluable tool if you are ordering tickets online; how many times have you ordered a ticket for a game and had the seat not be where you expected, even though you looked at the view from the seating chart? Wrigley Guide leaves no doubt of where you’ll be. Honestly, I don’t know how these guys do this, but I’m grateful that they do.
And Motyko doesn’t stop there – he also has plenty of information on how to attend a game at Wrigley Field. And he clearly knows the place well–good knowledge to have.
There are people like me, who are using the Internet to run a hopefully successful enterprise providing a useful product, and there are people like the folks at Precise Seating and Wrigley Guide, who work tirelessly simply so people can have a better experience at the ballgame.
And the smart baseball fan benefits greatly from both. If you’re going to Wrigley and buying tickets online, use the Wrigley guide website. You won’t be sorry.
Wrigley Guide: www.WrigleyGuide.com
I’m not big on ticket scalping. If I’ve done it for five events in my life it would be a lot. Of all my ballgame experiences I believe I’ve paid scalpers to get in twice. (Although I did score a great seat to an Orioles-Yankees game at Camden Yards for nothing once. Sometimes patience and persistence can make a world of difference.)
The first time was my first trip to Fenway Park in 1995. This was the year after the strike killed the World Series; fans were angry and tickets were easier to come by. Even with this, I paid something in the arena of $25 apiece–remember this is 1995 dollars–for bleacher seats at Fenway. My buddy and I ended up with very low seats close to the field. Except they were a little too low, and I was bobbing my head up and down trying to see through a railing all night.
The other time was in Atlanta. It was in 1999, my first time at Turner Field. I took the shuttle bus to the park and found someone willing to sell me a single seat. I don’t remember how much I paid, but it was a ripoff no matter what it was. The nice fellow said to me as I was walking away with the ticket on a cloudy evening, “The best part is, if it rains, you won’t get wet!” Apparently he’d never been in Turner Field before. The seat was in the upper deck all the way down the left field line, a seat that I believe you could get for a dollar today. Fortunately the place was empty on a rainy Monday night, and I was able to improve my lie early on.
I’m not a haggler. Never have been. It’s a product of growing up in a capitalist society. American consumers don’t have to endure that BS. Sell us the product at the right price or we’ll go elsewhere, period. Keep things simple so we can spend time planning our next trip to the ballpark.
But Andrew Van Cleve, author of the “Ultimate Fan: Have Game, Will Travel” blog, has opened my eyes to what an advantage this gives to fans who are willing to haggle.
Van Cleve gives tips on how to scalp tickets for low demand games, high demand games, playoff games and everything in between. He tells you exactly what to look out for, like networks saying a game is sold out. He describes the differences between StubHub and Tickets Now and other outlets. He goes into detail about what he calls the “Soar and Sink” cycle, where tickets skyrocket in price…and then fall as most folks are scared away. He has a few humorous stories of scores he’s made getting tickets.
The most important advice Van Cleve gives (although it’s all very good) is about how to deal with scalpers in general at the event. He debunks six separate myths about scalpers, including that you will get ripped off or that you need to be a good negotiator. Van Cleve claims that 99.5% of ticket scalpers are legit, and that you need only to know the market to negotiate. He tells you not to worry about the seller looking p***ed at you; that this is all part of the act.
Andrew Van Cleve lives in Chicago; according to my buddy Gary Herman he is within walking distance from Wrigley Field. I can’t think of a better location for someone to learn everything there is to know about how ticket scalpers operate. But he’s been around a bit too, as the title of the blog suggests.
I’m still not a scalper, but if I find myself in a position of necessity sometime, having this knowledge is going to be a big help. Who knows, I may need to learn that haggling skill to get into places soon, to best get the photos found in Ballpark E-Guides!
Of all of the ballparks built since the Camden Yards-inspired boom, Comerica Park in Detroit may be the most underrated. The accolades are deservedly frequent for AT&T Park in San Francisco, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and Safeco Field in Seattle, but not often does Comerica Park near the top of the list of favorites of the ballpark nut.
Except in my case. My first game at Comerica was possibly my favorite part of the first extended ballpark trip I took in August of 2001.
Part of the reason I had such a great time, in addition to being in a gorgeous new ballpark, was the amusement being offered by a hot dog vendor on the third base side of the infield. Every so often, this fellow would bellow in an operatic tone, “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGS!”
What made it funny, to this observer anyway, was the idea of an aspiring operatic tenor who had yet to make the big time, and was hoping to gain exposure selling hot dogs at a ballpark.
Well, not quite. The Singing Hot Dog Guy is Charley Marcuse, and he’s been doing it since his days at Tiger Stadium in 1999. He first attempted his throaty sales pitch at a concert at Tiger Stadium, and when it got a positive response, he started singing at Tigers games.
Not everyone appreciates Marcuse’s act. Aramark, the food vendor at Comerica Park, even attempted to silence him, in response to angry e-mails from folks who didn’t appreciate the volume. However, after public outcry, the company relented and allowed Charley to sing while the visiting team is at bat. Yes, he’s that loud. You can hear him at Tigers games on TV.
Marcuse won’t put ketchup on your dog either…as he rightly states, “there’s no ketchup in baseball”. (A point that I have thus far unsuccessfully tried to impress upon my spouse.) To drive the point home, Marcuse even has his own brand of mustard… “Charley’s Ballpark Mustard”, advertised with the slogan “It’ll make you sing!”
There’s even a website dedicated to keeping Charley singing– www.singinghotdogman.com . On the front page is a great picture of the Singing Hot Dog Guy in action.
If you are headed to Comerica Park, get lower level seats on the third base side if you can. (I’m assuming that the Tigers do not rotate vendors to different sections; it’s the only place I’ve seen him.) The Singing Hot Dog Guy is a plus for Comerica Park that no baseball fan should miss.
To give you an idea of how far the world has come when it comes to obtaining tickets to events, I’m going to tell you about getting tickets for my first Rush concert.
Since the days of the Internet, sleeping out for tickets has become a forgotten pastime, but when I was in high school it was pretty common. Any hot acts that came to the Philadelphia Spectrum were going to inspire a group of fans to head to a Ticketron (it wasn’t yet Ticketmaster then, but Ticketron was every bit as bad) vendor the night before tickets went on sale, in hopes of snaring great seats for the upcoming show.
My good friend Mike Lucas and I got up at 3AM and rode our bikes in the cold for the three miles to the Rickels hardware store in Edgewater, hoping to grab tickets for the Grace Under Pressure tour. In that strip mall there was a video store that doubled as the local Ticketron.
We sat on concrete for the next seven hours–and that is one long damn time to sit on concrete–waiting for the ticket buying to begin.
And because some jerk decided to make a list of the order of the line, people who signed the list the night before showed up the next morning and got in their place in line, making the line a useless, jumbled mess. I expect this probably happened everywhere that seats were sold. We ended up with about the worst seats available.
So, no, it isn’t a fond memory. And I’m glad that I have a little money now and can simply outbid jackwagons who cut in line for the better seats.
When I checked out SeatGeek, I marveled at how much better this ticket buying business has gotten. Yes, tickets are more expensive–that Rush ticket cost me $11.50–but today, 26 years later, anytime before the event, you can scour the entire venue and pay what you think is acceptable, all while lounging in your underwear.
SeatGeek is merely a search engine for tickets. It searches all of the major secondary ticket brokers – TicketsNow, RazorGator, Ticket Network, and of course StubHub and eBay among others. Now you don’t have to go from site to site and compare…SeatGeek does it for you.
Best of all, SeatGeek even informs you whether the tickets being sold are a good or bad deal, if it’s known. On the seating chart, a green dot means the ticket is a great deal, a red one means a bad deal, and a yellow is somewhere in the middle. And SeatGeek will even let you know how much the broker’s fee is, and it works that into the price, so there are no surprises–and don’t those surprise fees tick you off?
I looked at the October 1 game between the Yankees and Red Sox at Fenway Park, obviously an extremely tough ticket. There is a green dot deal in Section 120, Row KK, which are Loge Box seats between home and first. The tickets are $175 apiece. (And yes, that is a great deal.) Similarly, just three sections closer to home plate, are tickets going for $226 apiece. SeatGeek calls this a bad deal.
As if all of this info weren’t enough, the SeatGeek folks (boy, are these guys geeks) have even developed an algorithm to let you know where the price of tickets is trending, and indicate when the best time for you to buy would be.
SeatGeek makes clear that they do not buy or sell the tickets, they only search. But they do have a buy button on tickets that you click on, which takes you directly to the site offering the tickets.
Sites like SeatGeek, I believe, are great for sharpening the free market and determining exactly how much value tickets have. I don’t know who is the best of the brokers, and I reluctantly endorsed StubHub in the past. Now I don’t have to know. One blogger wrote about SeatGeek, “Never use Ticketmaster or Craigslist again”.
And I still remember a sore butt from sitting on concrete that would appreciate that.
In my E-Guides I often mention StubHub as a source for buying tickets to ballgames. Depending on the market, you can often get tickets cheaper than face value this way. As with buying directly from the team’s website, you will have to pay a fee for the service (15% of the ticket last I checked, which adds up on the more expensive seats). However, StubHub has a couple other advantages: you can choose the section you’d like, and you can see what the market is really demanding for a ticket.
Take the September 20 game between the Yankees and Rays at Yankee Stadium. For the best available seats in that game, the Yankees are asking (on their own site) $600 apiece for Legends Suite seats in Section 14A, Row 4, Seats 5 and 6 down the first base line. There is a $17.25 “convenience charge” for each ticket. (I’ve always wondered if I could make it “inconvenient” somehow and not pay that ridiculous charge.)
As I write this on September 13, StubHub has two tickets in that same section for $700 apiece. I am going to watch that and see if it comes down. There are also seats available in Section 14B, Row 9, farther from the field but still closer to home plate, for $575 apiece, which is less than what the Yankees were asking for Section 14A seats. (You can also get Champions Suite seats, almost at the same point at the third base line, for $325 apiece. But I digress.) An eBay seller is selling seats in this general zone for $588 apiece.
I realize this is a staggering amount of money for a ballgame ticket, but I am just using it as an example since I believe this will also cause the greatest variation. Listed below are the lowest StubHub prices of seats in Section 14A (or nearby and cheaper in the Legends Suite sections) by date:
Wednesday, September 15 – Seats in Section 14A, Row 8 for $700 apiece; Section 14B, Row 9 still available for $575.
Thursday, September 16 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Section 14B, Row 7 available for $700. $575 seats gone.
Friday, September 17 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Section 14B, Row 7 available for $700.
Saturday, September 18 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. In Section 14B in Row 3 (better seats than 14A), seats are now available for $677, and seats in Row 7 in the same section are now $700.
Sunday, September 19 – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Nothing else in that section available. Two sets of seats available in Section 14B, $677 seats are now $648, others are $700.
Monday, September 20 (day of the game) 7:20 AM – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Nothing else in that section available. Same seats for the same price in Section 14B.
Monday, September 20 (day of the game) 1:47 PM – Same seats in 14A, same price, $700. Nothing else in that section available. There are now three pairs of seats in Section 14B going for $500-$559 apiece, some in Row 3 even, finally less than the original sticker price (but don’t forget the StubHub markup, which makes $500 seats total $575). You can also now get Legends Suite seats directly behind home plate for $750. I never thought I’d be calling a $750 baseball ticket a bargain, but everything is relative when it comes to the Yankees.
The price of a ticket will likely go down as the event gets closer, and most of the time the availability of tickets will go up as well. You can score some real bargains on seats if you wait till the last minute; the drawback is that great deals don’t last long, and the seats that you’ve been eyeing may get snapped up within seconds of their finally becoming available at a price that you like. You have to balance how picky you are going to be about where you sit with how little you want to pay.
So my advice is to know how much you want to spend on seats and have a couple of general areas where you’d like to sit for whatever reasons. Keep the market in mind and be realistic. You are not going to get box seats for a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway for $5. Look at what tickets are going for on StubHub, get a feel for how much you’ll need to spend, decide on a dollar figure, and the second you see seats you want at that price, grab them. StubHub is no place for tentative people; I know this from experience.
I know my buddy Jake Cain at Ballpark Savvy recommends waiting until the last minute before buying tickets on eBay or StubHub. I don’t necessarily argue with that rationale, but there will likely be good deals available within a week of the event that you could let slip away waiting for something better that might not appear.
Another concern is that something could turn up and cause tickets to be in demand. This happened to me once. On a trip out west last summer, I was daily scoping eBay for Padres tickets for the day I was going to be in San Diego. As I was waiting for the prices to go down, it was announced that this Padres game against Los Angeles would be the first game of Manny Ramirez’s return from being suspended for steroids. Bam! The availability of tickets went down and the price went way up. I had no idea Californians loved fake muscles so much. I ended up not going to the game and learning a valuable lesson.
Hence my strategy of setting a price you want and grabbing it when you see it, and also checking very frequently, because good deals are snapped up quickly. But if you aren’t picky about where you sit, I would say 2-3 days before the event is a good time to start scanning those sites.
StubHub is a good tool for finding the right seats and occasional bargains, you just need to be smart about how you use it. I will try this experiment again with lesser demand tickets for the Pirates and let you know how it turns out.