Update 9/18 3:00 PM: According to the Keep the Bleachers General Admission Facebook page, the A’s have done a 180 and reverted back to all General Admission seating in the Bleachers. Huzzah!
It seems as though I’m always in transit when news breaks. Anyway…
Word spread quickly today that, come 2012, the A’s are converting the Bleachers from general admission (no assigned seating) to assigned seating. As a guy who has taken in over 500 games in the Bleachers over the last 20 years, I have to say that I’m in shock. According to conversations with the ticketing office, the change was made because some season ticket holders in the Bleachers were upset that their seats were taken after family members briefly left the game action for a trip to the restroom. While this has happened occasionally for some of the higher attendance dates, I rarely saw this occur. Personally, I have to admit that I usually sat a few rows up instead of taking the prime “front row” seats on the rail in part to avoid the possibility, no matter how remote the chances.
I suppose it’s fitting that tonight’s fireworks show is Star Wars themed, making the bleacher creatures the rebel alliance and Lew Wolff, well, Emperor Palpatine. A few minutes ago I asked David Rinetti to comment on this via email. I’ll post a response if I get one. Update: response at the end of this post.
The obvious theory at this point has many already begrudged fans thinking that Wolff has done this out of spite in response to the at times numerous anti-Wolff posters along the RF rail. I can’t discount it. If the purpose is to motivate some of the protesters (many of whom are season ticket holders) to give up and stop going to A’s games (and thus stop the protests inside the Coliseum), it just might work. He and his staff must have calculated the bad PR they’d get from this and went with it anyway. Like the tarping of the upper deck, this may be a sort of ticketing experiment to see what the response from the fanbase will be. And when the outcry happens, they can point to it and say, “See, we can’t even make a change from a very outdated business model – general admission seating. How can the franchise survive like that?”
Of course, that ignores the decades of tradition of consumer-friendly general admission tickets, even though they are more expensive ($13) than both the Plaza Outfield ($9) and Value Deck ($12). It’s all about the freedom of GA. I could get there on a weeknight after work and sit in the 4th row above the 362′ mark just before the seating bowl bends into a very baseball-unfriendly angle. If not the 4th row, then the 5th. Or 6th. Chances are it was available, with no hassle from the ushers. Now that’s gone, just like my carefree youth.
One thing I never understood about the tarping change was the conversion of the Plaza Bleachers to assigned Plaza Outfield seating, while the regular Bleachers stayed GA. It would’ve made more sense then to convert the Bleachers to Outfield Reserved seating, while the Plaza Bleachers remained GA. Sure, it would have punished the old die-hards even earlier, but it would’ve at least retained GA elsewhere in the park. A better way to make the change would be to have either the left field or right field area remain general admission, while the other side could be converted into “family” assigned seating, sort of like what the Giants did when they remade the Pavilion stands at the ‘Stick almost 20 years ago. I’ve added myself to supporters of the new Keep the Bleachers General Admission Facebook group, and I hope others will too. This move seems drastic and unnecessary, especially at this stage of the A’s tenure in Oakland. If the A’s are going to move to San Jose eventually, why not let Oakland-only fans have at least a few of their beloved institutions? Better that than the continued scorched earth campaign.
P.S. I got Rinetti’s response just after I hit the Publish button. Here it is:
Thanks for your letter. We are encountering significant ticketing issue on our premium games in which over 200 fans per game have bleacher seats and can’t find seats together or seats at all. We have come up with a plan to take care of the regular bleacher guests and even provide them with a discount as long as they purchase their seats in advance. The regular games that have plenty of open seating will not be an issue. It will be the games vs. the Yankees, Giants, Red Sox and some of the fireworks shows. If you would like to call me after Tuesday of next week, I can explain further.
I think I’ll give Rinetti a call next week.