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Rays games to be a costlier affair

Ticket prices go up about 10 percent on average and value-priced games are nixed, though most Beach and upper-deck seats drop to $5.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published January 8, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - Going to a Devil Rays game this season won't be much of a bargain.

The Rays raised prices in most seat categories, for an overall average hike of about 10 percent, and eliminated a value pricing plan that was in place the previous two seasons.

Amid the increase, there was one concession to family value: the price of upper deck and Beach seats for the 55 regular-priced games was dropped to $5.

"We think it is fair overall," managing general partner Vince Naimoli said. "We want to continue to make baseball affordable for the general public. We wanted to have a value category so people of all incomes can continue to come to games, and that's what we attempted to do."

The Rays are coming off their most successful season, with 70 wins and their first finish out of last place. However, they made only a marginal increase to their player payroll and will again rank at the bottom of the major leagues at about $32-million.

For that, prices for the better seats at Tropicana Field will all go up - some, such as lower boxes, as much as 25 percent, from $28 to $35. Most of the increases are for lesser amounts. Overall, prices went up in 14 categories, stayed the same in three and went down in three.

Last year the Rays, like many teams, had a three-tiered pricing plan, with games designated as value, regular and prime. This year they dropped the 12 value-priced games and increased the number of more expensive prime-priced games from 19 to 26.

The 2005 prime dates include all 10 home games against the Yankees (May 2-5, Aug. 15-17, Sept. 13-15), all nine against the world champion Red Sox (April 22-24, July 25-27, Sept. 19-21), three against the NL champion Cardinals (June 17-19), a June 25 game against the Marlins and three others to be determined.

Tickets for regular-season and spring games will go on sale at noon Jan. 15, and the Rays are planning to turn the launch into something of an event.

There will be appearances by manager Lou Piniella, senior adviser Don Zimmer and recent acquisitions Kevin Cash, Alex Gonzalez and Josh Phelps, along with free pizza and soft drinks (while supplies last). The first 2,000 fans buying tickets will get a Rays DVD.

Tickets will also be available at the team store at WestShore Plaza (with a $1.75 per ticket service charge, up from $1.50) and through Ticketmaster (at an additional service charge).

Starting Jan. 16, the Tropicana Field box office will be open 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and noon-4 p.m. Sundays.

Also Friday, the Rays continued negotiations with free-agent outfielder Danny Bautista but don't expect a resolution until early next week.

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