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Eating away the innings in baseball's cheap seats


By Michael McCarthy and Venuri Siriwardane, USA TODAY
At least thirteen of Major League Baseball's 30 teams are offering all-you-can-eat seats for all or part of the 2008 season.

Ticket prices for these seats range from $30 at the low end with the Atlanta Braves to $200 at the high end with the St. Louis Cardinals. The majority fall within the $30-$55 range. Most teams include pre-cooked, easy-to-prepare ballpark fare such as hot dogs, nachos, peanuts and soft drinks but don't include beer, burgers, pizzas and desserts.

Some teams boost prices for "premium" games involving divisional rivals and box office draws such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Most teams charge higher prices for day-of-game walkups than advance tickets. Fans who buy multiple games or season tickets and groups usually get a discount.

The advent of all these pay-one-price sections is leading to stadium design changes. Many Oakland Athletics fans complained when the team closed the upper deck of McAfee Coliseum in 2006. The club will address two issues simultaneously by creating a new 990-seat all-you-can-eat section, behind home plate, in the old upper deck.

"They're good seats that people missed when we took them away," explains Jim Leahey, vice president of sales and marketing. "Plus, we can control it from an operational point of view. And keep it exclusive from the rest of the park."

The Padres, meanwhile, will offer an All-You-Can-Eat buffet, including burgers, hot dogs and soft drinks, with 180-250 seats on top of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in PETCO Park's left field corner. The section will feature bleacher seats with an adjoining buffet/eating area.

"We tested it for the last three games of the season last year and it was an overwhelming success," says Jeff Overton, executive vice president of business operations.

CONCESSIONS: All-you-can-eat seats a hit with fans, but dieticians cringe

The Cardinals designed two-year old Busch Stadium with multiple all-inclusive sections, says Michael Hall, director of group sales. The team will accept individual sales in eight of the 10 sections this season, including the new "Left Field Landing" in the left field corner.

Some fans go hog wild in these sections. Others are more interested in the pay-one-price aspect than the unlimited hot dogs, Hall says. "Once fans make their purchase, they don't have to go back into their pocket. People really enjoy that."

All the teams will accept individual sales for their all-you-can-eat sections this season with one exception: the Tampa Bay Rays. The team's first all-you-can-eat section will only accept groups of 20 or more at Tropicana Field, says spokeswoman Carmen Molina.

The Florida Marlins will aim their new section at groups but will still accept individual sales, says Sean Flynn, vice president of marketing. Ditto for the Padres, says Overton.

Due to popular demand, the Rangers, Orioles, Braves and Cardinals are enlarging their sections from last season. More teams could be jumping aboard.

The Washington Nationals are "looking into" the concept for the new Nationals Park, says spokeswoman Chartese Burnett. "It works quite well in other venues," she notes. A look at this season's All-You-Can-Eat tickets vs. the previous, or regular, price of same seats:

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Hamels started toward the dugout after what he thought was a strike. Lincecum didn't get the call & buzzed ump Dana DeMuth w. a fastball that slammed off the backstop & then froze Hamels w. another 3rd strike. 4/28/10 Timmy the ump killer.
3/12/2008, 12:02 am Link to this post
 
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Re: Eating away the innings in baseball's cheap seats


•Los Angeles Dodgers (Dodgers Stadium): 3,300 seats for all home games. Location: Right field Bleachers. What's included: Dodger dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, soft drinks, water. Prices: $35 in advance; $40 on gameday. Previous price: $6 in advance; $8 on day of game.

•Toronto Blue Jays (Rogers Centre): 1,600 seats for the team's first "All-You-Can-Eat Weekend" vs. the Royals on May 23-24-25. Location: 200 Level Outfield in right [sign in to see URL]'s included: Hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, soft drinks. Price: $39. Regular prices: $21-$24.

•Atlanta Braves (Turner Field): Expanded to 1,500 seats in three sections, from 1,000 in two sections for all home games. Locations: Outfield, Upper Box and Club Pavillion in right center, left field corner and third base line. What's included: Basic menu includes hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, soft drinks. More expensive option adds hamburgers, french fries and ice cream. Most expensive includes barbecue, chicken wings, pulled pork, corn bread, baked beans and burgers — plus beer. Prices: $30, $45, $65. Previous prices: $16, $26, $42

•St. Louis Cardinals (Busch Stadium): Expanded to 1,360 seats from 900 for all home games. Location: 10 all-inclusive sections, ranging from "Homer's Landing" in center field to "Commissioner's Box" seats next to Cardinals dugout. What's included: All-You-Can-Eat buffets, plus beer and soft drinks. Most expensive tickets include private parking and seat TV's. Prices: $65-$200. Eight sections offer individual sales. Two sections, "Musial Bridge" and "MVP Deck," only serve groups. Previous prices: Not applicable since the sections were designed to be all-inclusive.

•Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park at Camden Yards): Expanded to 1,300 seats, from 800 last season, for all home games. Location: Sections 272-288 in left field. What's included: Hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, soft drinks, ice cream. Prices: $40 in advance, $45 on gameday; $55 in advance, $60 on gameday for premium games. Previous price: $25.

•Texas Rangers (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington): Expanded to 1,094 seats for 47 Thursday-Sunday home games from 616 seats for eight games last season. Location: Sections 201-209, Lexus Club Terrace, in left field corner. What's included: Hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos, soft drinks. Prices: $34; $38 for prime games. Regular prices: $25, $29.

•Oakland Athletics (McAfee Coliseum): 990 seats for all home games. Location: Sections 316-318. Upper deck behind home plate. What's included: Hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, soft drinks, ice cream. Prices: $35; $38 for premium games. Previous prices: $18-$20.

•Tampa Bay Rays (Tropicana Field): 500-700 seats. Dates are undetermined. Location: Press Level, or second level, around infield horseshoe. What's included: Hot dogs, Italian sausage, popcorn, peanuts, nachos and soft drinks. Price: $35. Only for groups of 20 or more. Previous price: $26-$45.

•Kansas City Royals (Kauffman Stadium): Expanded to 500 seats, from 400 last season, for all home games except Opening Day. Location: Sections 230-238 down right field line. What's included: Hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, soft drinks. Prices: $40 in advance, $45 gameday. Previous prices: $30.

•Florida Marlins (Dolphin Stadium): 400 seats for six Friday night games. Location: Club level. Third base line. What's included: Hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, soft drinks. Price: $45 in advance; $50 gameday. Mostly aimed at groups, with some individual sales mixed in. Regular price: $40.

•San Diego Padres (PETCO Park): 180-250 seats for all home games. Location: Rooftop bleachers on top of Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field corner. What's included: All-You-Can-Eat buffet including burgers, hot dogs and soft drinks. Starts one hour before the game and ends one hour into game. Price: $39. Mostly groups, some individual sales. Previous price: $10.

•Pittsburgh Pirates (PNC Park): 164 seats for all home games. Location: Section 147. Outfield Reserve, down right field line. Could expand to Section 146 depending on demand. What's included: Hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, salads, popcorn, peanuts, ice cream, soft drinks. Price: $35 in advance, $40 gameday. Previous Price: $17.

•Arizona Diamondbacks (Chase Field): 72 seats for all home games. Location: New Home Run Porch section overhanging warning track in right and left center fields. What's included: Hot dogs, bratwurst, burgers, chicken sandwiches, ice cream, desserts, soft drinks, plus padded seats, TV's and private parking. Price. $75. However, fans can only purchase as a season ticket. So the total cost is $6,225 per ticket. Previous price. $20.

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Hamels started toward the dugout after what he thought was a strike. Lincecum didn't get the call & buzzed ump Dana DeMuth w. a fastball that slammed off the backstop & then froze Hamels w. another 3rd strike. 4/28/10 Timmy the ump killer.
3/12/2008, 12:02 am Link to this post
 
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Re: Eating away the innings in baseball's cheap seats


At least 13 of the 30 major league teams are offering all-you-can-eat seats for all or part of the 2008 season, up from six last year. Some of the teams that offered them last season are expanding their all-you-can-eat sections this season.

All-you-can-eat seats, usually in distant bleacher or upper-deck sections, are allowing teams to squeeze revenue out of parts of ballparks that used to sit empty game after game, team officials say.

"We're getting rid of (tickets) and making the public happy" by offering them a way to save money, says Andrew Silverman, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Texas Rangers. The Rangers saw sales of 616 seats in their stadium's left-field corner take off last year after the seats were designated as all-you-can-eat areas.

Silverman says the Rangers will offer nearly 1,100 all-you-can-eat seats at 48 of the team's 81 home games this year.

The seats are drawing criticism from diet and health specialists who say they are symbols of binge eating, supersized fast food and poor nutrition. At a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the USA is in the grip of an obesity crisis with 1 in 3 adults obese, the idea of setting aside places for fans to gorge on high-fat foods is irresponsible, many specialists say.

"It's disgusting," says Christine Gerbstadt, a registered dietitian and national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). "Why can't people just enjoy the game and eat sensibly?"

Mark Tilson, vice president of sales and marketing for the Kansas City Royals, says it's up to fans to eat responsibly.

"We're not making anybody purchase these seats, or eat seven hot dogs," says Tilson, whose team has 500 seats in its all-you-can-eat section. "We saw plenty of healthy families enjoying it responsibly."

He acknowledges that some fans try to "set personal records" during their first game in the section. By their second or third time in such seats, Tilson says, they eat like they normally would at a game.

For regular fans who have seen teams cater to higher-end clientele with luxury suites and premium seating areas featuring exclusive eating areas or wait service, all-you-can-eat sections represent a grittier, cheaper way to eat at will.

"What attracted me was eating as much as I could," says Toney Fernandez, 20, of Harbor City, Calif., but "then I got hooked by the whole atmosphere: Everybody's friendly and having a good time." He says he went to five games in the Los Angeles Dodgers' section last year and plans to attend 10 games there this season.

Throughout Major League Baseball, the impact of all-you-can-eat sections is becoming clear.

Before last season, the Dodgers didn't open their right-field bleacher pavilion unless the left-field bleachers sold out. Then they began offering 3,300 right-field bleacher seats with unlimited Dodger Dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, soft drinks and water. The section averaged 2,200 fans a game last season — and sold out for one-third of the team's home games.

Before the unlimited food and drink, such seats sold for $6 or $8, if they sold at all. Now, they go for $35 in advance and $40 for game-day tickets. A ticket to a major league game cost an average of $[sign in to see URL] last season, according to Team Marketing Report.

For Dodgers fans who might have bought a regular bleacher seat in past years and then purchased a hot dog, nachos, peanuts, popcorn and a soda, all-you-can-eat sections could save them $5 or so — and more if they keep eating.

"What's the old saying? A hot dog at the ballpark is better than a steak at the Ritz," says Dodgers chief marketing officer Charles Steinberg, who won't discuss the precise impact the all-you-can-eat seats have had on team revenue.

Among the clubs with all-you-can-eat seats for the first time this year: the Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks. Besides the Dodgers, Rangers and Royals, those offering them for at least part of last season were the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles.

Ticketholders usually are issued colored wristbands. Special concession stands start dishing out goodies 90 minutes before the first pitch and don't quit until the seventh inning.

Because the food and drink often is self-serve, voracious fans totter back to their seats with as much as they can carry. With little or no money changing hands, lines move quickly. To stop bracelet-wearers from supplying other rows of fans with food, some teams limit fans to four to six items a visit.

The Dodgers operate the biggest section; the Braves seem to have the fanciest menu. It includes beer, for $65 a seat. The Cardinals have the most sections: 10 all-you-can-eat buffets, plus beer, for $65-$200 a game. The Diamondbacks are creating the most expensive section at their park, Chase Field. Their 72 seats run $75 a game. But fans have to buy them as a season ticket, So the cost is $6,075 a seat.

Not everyone's a fan. Author Neal Pollack calls all-you-can-eat seats "the worst American culture can offer." He says he sat in the Dodgers' section last year and it "was a gluttonous orgy of stupidity.

"The smell … was unbearable," Pollack recalls. "By the end of the game, it was like sitting in a sewer."

Teams emphasize that such seats can help budget-conscious fans — families, teens, college students and office groups — save money at a time when many fans have complained about the rising costs of attending major league games.

---
Hamels started toward the dugout after what he thought was a strike. Lincecum didn't get the call & buzzed ump Dana DeMuth w. a fastball that slammed off the backstop & then froze Hamels w. another 3rd strike. 4/28/10 Timmy the ump killer.
3/12/2008, 12:05 am Link to this post
 
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Re: Eating away the innings in baseball's cheap seats


'It's like a rite of passage'

It's no coincidence that the Marlins, Rays, Royals, Pirates and A's are among those either adding all-you-can-eat seats or expanding such sections this season.

Those teams drew the fewest home fans in the majors last season. They see free-flowing food and drink as a way to get people into their stadiums.

After drawing [sign in to see URL] million fans at home in 2007, the worst in the majors, the Marlins are creating a 400-seat section along the third-base line of Dolphin Stadium.

The Rays, with the second-lowest home attendance, will test a 500- to 700-seat area for groups of 20 at Tropicana Field, spokeswoman Carmen Molina says.

The Pirates, with the fourth-lowest attendance, have high hopes for their new 164-seat section at PNC Park, team President Frank Coonelly says. He predicts the concept will attract budget-conscious parents.

"As a parent of four kids, I remember that every inning it seemed they would like a hot dog or popcorn," he says. "Either I would have to say 'no' and deal with them whining or head back out to the concession stand."

For the Cardinals, formerly owned by the beer-making Busch family in a city where breweries are a source of pride, the decision to offer beer in all-you-can-eat packages isn't surprising.

It's a delicate subject, however. Last year, manager Tony La Russa pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and pitcher Josh Hancock was killed in an alcohol-related car accident.

Michael Hall, the team's group sales director, says the team didn't have any significant problems with alcohol in the sections last season. "These areas are controlled," he says. "If we recognize people are not drinking responsibly, we won't continue the service." Major League Baseball stadiums stop serving beer at the end of the seventh inning.

Meanwhile, many baseball fans embraced all-you-can-eat seats with gusto last season:

• At the Braves' Turner Field, some fans had hot dog eating contests, says Derek Schiller, executive vice president of sales and marketing. "It's like a rite of passage. You buy your ticket and figure out how many hot dogs and nachos you can eat."

• The Royals tout their section with the slogan "Eat, drink and be merry!" At one game, a teenage boy scarfed down a dozen hot dogs, nachos and a couple of bags of peanuts. The feat was so impressive, he was interviewed on the game's TV broadcast, Tilson recalls. Then there was the pregnant woman who bought the seats because she was craving ballpark food. "She just went to town," Tilson says.

• At Oriole Park at Camden Yards, there were father-son hot dog eating contests while college kids competed to eat the most nachos, says team spokesman Greg Bader. The team is enlarging its all-you-can-eat section to 1,300 seats this season, up from 800 last year.

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Hamels started toward the dugout after what he thought was a strike. Lincecum didn't get the call & buzzed ump Dana DeMuth w. a fastball that slammed off the backstop & then froze Hamels w. another 3rd strike. 4/28/10 Timmy the ump killer.
3/12/2008, 12:05 am Link to this post
 
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Re: Eating away the innings in baseball's cheap seats


How much is too much?

So how much food do fans in these seats consume?

Ron Ranieri, general manager of concessionaire Aramark at Atlanta's Turner Field, calculates that a typical all-you-can-eat customer downed: [sign in to see URL] hot dogs; one 20-ounce soda; one [sign in to see URL] bag of peanuts; one 3-ounce order of nachos and 32 ounces of popcorn.

Those numbers are "insane," the ADA's Gerbstadt says. They equate to more than three times the daily recommended calories and carbohydrates, four times the saturated fat and sodium, and seven times the fat suggested by the Agriculture Department's 2005 diet guidelines.

That's not counting the beer and desserts many fans also polish off. Those who eat even close to such amounts on a semi-regular basis, Gerbstadt says, are at added risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and erectile dysfunction.

"This is something you do once in a lifetime, and pray you don't get a heart attack," she says. "They're eating the equivalent of four days of food, or twice what the average person eats on Thanksgiving Day. I hope these people have tons of Pepto-Bismol."

Fan consumption was "not excessive," the Braves' Schiller says. There's a difference between people who patronize unlimited buffets at restaurants and those who try it at the ballpark, he adds. "People go to those places because they're hungry. The primary reason for coming to Turner Field, even with all-you-can-eat, is baseball."

The Pirates' Coonelly notes the team offers all-you-can-eat salads in its new section.

The A's offer salads, fruit cups and garden burgers at other stands for fans who want healthier food.

"Eating one extra hot dog won't be the source of health issues in the U.S.," says Jim Leahey, the A's vice president for sales and marketing. "We recognize there's certain fans who are vegetarian and want healthy alternatives. We have 35,000 seats. If the 1,000 (all-you-can-eat) seats don't appeal to you, we have plenty of alternatives."

Does the idea of an all-you-can-eat section appeal to you or repulse you? If you've sat in one of these sections before, how much did you consume? Share your thoughts below.

]source


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Hamels started toward the dugout after what he thought was a strike. Lincecum didn't get the call & buzzed ump Dana DeMuth w. a fastball that slammed off the backstop & then froze Hamels w. another 3rd strike. 4/28/10 Timmy the ump killer.
3/12/2008, 12:06 am Link to this post
 
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Re: Eating away the innings in baseball's cheap seats


[sign in to see URL] kind of want to go to Busch for that all you can eat buffet now..
3/12/2008, 12:09 am Link to this post   
 
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i think it's a rip off for [sign in to see URL] have to be a season ticket holder to have that right?!?! insane! dodgers make more [sign in to see URL] i would pass on the dodger dog...

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Hamels started toward the dugout after what he thought was a strike. Lincecum didn't get the call & buzzed ump Dana DeMuth w. a fastball that slammed off the backstop & then froze Hamels w. another 3rd strike. 4/28/10 Timmy the ump killer.
3/12/2008, 12:21 am Link to this post
 
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Re: Eating away the innings in baseball's cheap seats


memo to dodgers: do not, repeat do not, let andrew jones anywhere near the rf bleachers. he may just wander over there during the game.

also, i'm not sure i want to hang out in the all you can eat section. this is going to be chalked full of nast !@#$ with nasty farts, and fat asses that take up more room than they normally should. especially at the litter box where you are in the bleachers. i'll stick to drinking inside the western metal building bar.

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"in the early days all i hoped was to make a living out of what i did best. but, since there's no real market for masturbation i had to fall back on my bass playing abilities."

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3/12/2008, 8:32 am Link to this post   
 


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