Monday, April 22, 2002

'The dance' an early inning ritual for ushers

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        From his perch in the red seats behind home plate at Cinergy Field, usher Tom Tegenkamp watches the dance at every Reds home game. It's a dance that's something akin to musical chairs:

        Fan looks at ticket. Fan finds his seat. Fan finds out he's in the wrong one. Fan shuffles awkwardly into the aisle in search of the right one, stepping on toes and knocking over beer cups.

        It's been an early inning ritual at all the 2,500-plus Reds games that have been played at Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field since the turnstiles first started swinging in June 1970.

        A lot of fans have a hard time figuring out where they are supposed to sit.

        “I spend a lot of time every game sorting it all out,” said Mr. Tegenkamp, a veteran usher well-known to regulars in the red boxes.

        “But that's OK; that's my job.”

        The confusion that often settles over Reds fans — particularly those who come only once — stems usually from a simple misunderstanding.

        People look at their tickets and see the number “306” or “118” or whatever it might be and think that refers to a block of seats bounded by two aisles.

        What they don't realize is that the number refers to the aisle.

        Generally, about half of the seats on each side of the aisle are considered to be part of that aisle.

        At Cinergy Field, a ticket that says Aisle 118, Row 11, Seat 1 is the first seat on the right as the customer walks down the aisle. Next to that seat is seat 2,3,4 and so on.

        But the ticket that says Aisle 118, Row 11, Seat 101 is the first seat on the left side of the aisle, and next to that seat is 102, 103, and 104.

        Simple as that.

        But for some it can be confusing, as it was for Bruce Fields and his two sons on Opening Day this year. They picked the wrong side of Aisle 223 and ended up being moved by an usher when rightful seat occupants arrived.

        The Reds are still working on a seating plan for the Great American Ball Park scheduled to open next April. But whatever plan they come up with, there will be a uniformed army made up of folks like Mr. Tegenkamp to sort it out.

        “We're here to help,” Mr. Tegenkamp said. “All you have to do is ask.”

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