Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Reds fans get another crack at tickets

In-person sales start Saturday for 82 games

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

There will be more Reds tickets for sale to a lot more ballgames - and 50-some places to buy them in person - this Saturday. But that likely won't appease those people who tried in vain for Opening Day tickets Saturday over the Internet and telephone.

  Here's how to get tickets beginning this Saturday for the Reds' regular-season games (except Opening Day) and two exhibition games (March 28 and 29) against the Cleveland Indians.
What: Non-Opening Day tickets.
When: 9 a.m. Saturday.
Where: Tickets will be available at 50 Ticket.com outlets throughout the Tristate, including 12 windows at Great American Ball Park and two at the Reds Dugout Shop at the Westin Hotel.
• Tickets are also available at www.cincinnatireds.com or by phone at (513) 381-7337 and toll-free at 877-647-7337.
Price: $9 to $30.
Etc.: There is no limit on the number of tickets that may be purchased.
"If somebody has a better way to do it, and it's fair, we'll certainly listen," said Reds chief operating officer John Allen, referring to the Opening Day ticket sale as mostly a no-win situation. "I know we're getting hammered on this, but we thought it through, talked to a lot of people, a lot of ballclubs and (came up with this)."

But the demand was overwhelming, far more than the Reds ever received for an Opening Day game, Reds officials said. On Saturday, there were about 1.2 million attempted contacts - 720,000 on the internet, and another 300,000 to 400,000 by telephone - seeking a total of 14,000 tickets.

That means, by Allen's calculations, that four-tenths of 1 percent of those attempts resulted in tickets being acquired. Each of 3,500 "customers" could order up to four tickets, which totals 14,000.

Some people did get through, and yes, some were from Hamilton County.

"I was using a 56K cable modem (a low-speed Internet hookup) and got a ticket for myself and my friend, and after I hung up decided to try again and got two more for my brother and his friend," said Sarah Hankins, 32, a marketing manager from Hyde Park.

John Fischer, 43, of Anderson Township, was armed with his home phone, a cell phone and a high-speed Internet hookup and got four tickets after a 27-minute wait and having to click the "purchase tickets" icon about 50 times because he kept getting timed out.

"That's one ticket for me, one for my wife, another for a friend (and whomever wants to be his friend)," said Fischer, laughing. "But I won't be putting them on eBay or anywhere else. I'm using them."

Tickets on eBay were being put up for five and 10 times face value. Tickets that are $10 to $57 face value were being put up for bid between $100 and $500.

There are still Opening Day tickets available - if you buy a season ticket, Reds salespeople noted Monday.

And it's a better deal than what's being offered on eBay. For example, a 42-game weekday (Monday through Thursday) partial-season ticket plan comes with an Opening Day ticket for $398.

The Reds were attempting to make the ticket sale equitable to all Reds fans, including those who are out of town attending college, traveling on business, wintering down south or otherwise unable to be in Cincinnati

They couldn't physically accommodate the demand for Opening Day tickets at their still-under-construction ballpark, although they will Saturday because that demand is spread out over 82 dates (the remaining home games and two exhibition games March 28 and 29), with less chance of profound disappointment. Everyone will get something.

Every category of fans who could have been offended apparently was: a widow hoping to keep the memory of her late husband alive; fathers with sons; mothers with daughters; longtime Reds fans; people who wanted to stand in line; people without the Internet, people with the Internet.

"Having only Internet and phone sales was a huge mistake on the part of the Reds, and I for one am extremely upset with it," e-mailed Adam Schorsch. "Next time, give the locals a chance to see their team."

Normally, the Reds do open ticket windows, but ticket brokers wind up paying hordes of young people to camp out overnight to buy all the tickets they can in the morning. Had the team found a way to open ticket pods, they couldn't have handled the jam of disappointed people, Reds officials said..

The most common complaint about the Opening Day ticket sale came from people in the Tristate, especially Hamilton County. These people, who paid the sales tax that financed the building of the stadium, felt they should have had a better shot at tickets than, say, a ticket broker from out of town.

Allen said the Reds looked into other scenarios, such as a mail-in lottery, but they couldn't have processed such demand in time for Opening Day.

An Illinois-based ticket broker has 206 Reds' Opening Day tickets available on its Web site, ranging from $1,260 apiece on a $35 face-value ticket (second row behind the Reds dugout) down to $190 apiece on a $16 face-value ticket (upper deck third base).

Officials at the company could not be reached to explain how they acquired those tickets.

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