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Rays hike prices but offer Beach freedom

MARC TOPKIN
Published October 15, 2003

The Devil Rays hope to win more games in 2004. Naturally, it's going to cost more - though not necessarily a lot more - to see them.

Most ticket prices are being raised slightly, though the Rays say 45 percent of the Tropicana Field seats (about 20,000) will stay the same or be lower. The net result is an average ticket price of $18.54, an increase of nearly 9 percent from last season's $17.01. In 2002, the average price was $17.77.

The Rays also relaxed the controversial two-year-old policy that forced fans who bought the lowest-priced tickets to stay in the Beach area above leftfield. Beach ticket-holders again will have access to the full stadium, though they will pay $1 or $2 more per ticket.

"We've heard a lot of suggestions from fans and we'd like to think we react accordingly to the central issues that are brought up," said Wayne Hodes, vice president of sales. "It makes sense for people to be able to use all the amenities."

The Rays again will use a variable pricing scheme, with three prices in each seating category depending on the day and/or opponent. The 21 games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Giants will be 21 designated premium games (up from 13 last season), while there will be 12 weekday value games (down from 13) and 48 regular-priced games.

The biggest increases are being applied to some of the best seats: Lower Club Box seats are going from $40 to $45 for regular games, $35 to $40 for value games and $45 to $60 for premium games; Lower Box seats are going from $25 to $28 (regular), $18 to $23 (value) and $32 to $38 (premium).

But by splitting the Diamond Club and Upper Reserve areas into Infield and Outfield sections (the line of demarcation is the edge of the infield, approximately sections 213/214 and 313/314), they also created some lower priced areas, some prices dropping as much as $8 per game.

"We're trying to make it affordable for everybody to come to the ballgame," Hodes said. "Obviously there are some very popular locations within the confines of the stadium and some less popular locations that with the lower prices people might find more to their liking."

Full and partial season-ticket holders can avoid the increase and renew at 2003 prices by putting down a 25 percent deposit by Nov. 14. They can get an additional 5 percent discount if they pay in full by then. Full season-ticket holders who renew also will get the mini-bobblehead doll series featuring Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford and Aubrey Huff.

Prices for the premium-area Kane's Club were not announced but probably will go up as well, Hodes said.

Other Rays news

Former major-league pitcher Stan Williams, a longtime associate of manager Lou Piniella, was named advance scout. Williams, 67, was a pitching coach for Piniella in New York, Cincinnati and Seattle and most recently was the Mariners advance scout. This will be his 46th season in the majors as a player, coach or scout. Williams replaces Bart Johnson, who will return to major-league scouting.

Catcher Javier Valentin and infielder Jason Smith were outrighted to Triple-A Durham and pitcher Carlos Reyes elected free agency as the team began clearing space on the 40-man roster. Valentin was the primary backup catcher but hit .222 and may be replaced by Pete LaForest. Smith spent all but a few days of the season at Triple A. Reyes pitched in 10 games during three stints with the big-league team. The Rays have 37 players on the roster.

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