You mess with the bull, you get the horns

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 And when the outcry happens, they can point to it and say, “See, we can’t even make a change from a very outdated business model – general admission seating.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.

26 thoughts on “You mess with the bull, you get the horns

  1. Not necessarily defending the A’s, Wolff with this decision, but because its only for premium games, I don’t see where the controversy is. Non-premium games will remain the same; seems like a logical decision by the A’s. By the way, went to Wednesdays game; there was hardly anyone sitting in the “bleachers.” Hardly anyone inside for that matter. R.M., how does bleacher seating work in other ballparks like AT&T? Is it assigned or a free for all?

  2. ML, I applaud you for taking a stance on this. I think it’s just another bone-head move by this ownership. Schott/Hoffman look like Walter Haas compared to these guys. It took a 10 game losing streak to finally bounce out the inept, unpopular Bob Geren, who should of been tossed 3 years earlier. What other goodies do we have to look forward to with these guys? My hunch is that they go cheap on the Hamster and we lose him to FA.

  3. I love fake outrage (sarcasm). By the way, were you there Wednesday?

  4. @Tony D: Bleacher seating at AT&T is assigned.

  5. I have bought a season ticket plan package there every year for the last 11 years. The comment on the thread earlier was the first I heard of this. Pretty annoyed by it. I always loved paying for all my games and being able to wait to see what games I wanted to select later. But now I won’t be able to do that if I want good seats? This really sucks. Plus it was nice buying tickets to a game. Then later on more friends wanting to go, easily buying tickets and then being able to sit together with no problem.

    Couple seasons ago they walked throughout bleachers asking how we felt if they went to this or if they should stay the way it is. No one around me wanted to switch. This year not even a little comment asking how we felt. There should be no problem of people sitting down during premium games if they checked tickets better and just ran those games like movie theaters do on their opening day sale outs.

    Also don’t love that I emailed my ticket rep without a response so far. The last decade had a great rep that responded right away. Within the last year or two. That person got promoted and no one else there seems to care as much.

  6. Rinetti’s response seems pretty reasonable to me.

  7. People are always saying how the A’s do a terrible job in trying to retain fans. The people who showed u p for the premium games and couldn’t sit together obviously had a poor experience and are less likely to return. So, they institute a policy that will still provide bleacher creatures access to their choice seats (provided they buy early) and help those others find seats together, and people cry foul.

    I think there’s just no making some groups happy unless they start construction at Victory Court tomorrow.

  8. No in this case the solution was quite simple, direct people who show up to premium games to some of the other 50 or so thousand seats that are in the stadium if they didn’t like the GA aspect of the small amount of seats that constitute the “bleachers”. This has nothing to do with VC, this has to do with a boneheaded move by the ownership that directly targets their most passionate and more importantly, LOYAL fans. And I say this as an avid SJ supporter (or anywhere in the Bay supporter), and someone who has only sat in the bleachers one time in 23 years of attending A’s games at the Coliseum (in other words it doesn’t affect me personally).

    Combined with everything else the current ownership has done, ie: tarps, fielding crappy teams, announcing moves long before they were anywhere near reality, piss poor benefits for season ticket holders compared to other teams, killing fan fest, etc…, it’s only the fact they want to build the team a stadium w/o public money that redeems them. And that’s only because without their “free” stadium there’s no other way the A’s would get one in the Bay Area.

  9. Dan,
    This policy is ONLY FOR PREMIUM GAMES! Not the entire season. Again, I was at the game Wednesday and there were very few folk actually sitting in the so-called bleachers. So much for all those passionate and loyal fans you’re talking about (unless of course you’re referring to Giants, Yankees, and Red Sox fans). @ Tony way back; thanks for the info regarding AT&T Park. I guess the Giants don’t give a damn about their fans because they have assigned bleacher seating for EVERY GAME OF THE YEAR! Again, can we cease with all this faux outrage?

  10. Even if just for premium games, it is a bad move. Those are the games the most bleacher bums come to and the ones you’d want the most of them on the rail with flags and drums and they’re now the games they’ve made doing so the most difficult. Face it, this was a bad move, that is generating real backlash. They had a system that was working with those that matter, why screw with it?

  11. @Dan – the A’s need fans other than 4-5K who show up on Tuesday nights. Any policy/decision that encourages more fans and preserves the fandom of the diehards is fine by me.

    Plus, the players want to go to Japan. It’s not like the first home game back would be ho-hum and no frills. The team will have two opening days, effectively.

  12. True it gives them two opening days, but it ends up screwing local fans out of a couple of games and more importantly the team’s real opening day. As for the 4-5k that show up on Tuesday nights, this policy hurts them and does so to benefit who? A few people who occasionally show up to a “premier” game and who if they really wanted an assigned seat could pick one of the thousands of other seats in the ballpark… Not to mention the bleachers aren’t really an appropriate place for a Red Sox/Yankees/etc… fan to sit anyway unless they like getting heckled.

  13. @Dan – Now you’re getting ridiculous. When the A’s did the Japan opening three years ago, the attendance for the “real” Oakland opening day was 36,067. That’s right, a sellout. It should be no different next April, especially because the Japan series has to have some separation from the regular opening day due to travel.

  14. @TonyD–I know you love LW, but you simply amaze me on NEVER being critical of A’s management poor decisions. If they do move to SJ and make bonehead moves like this–and they will– don’t say I didn’t warned you. You don’t understand the passion of the hard-core bleacher creatures at the Coliseum. Yeah, they’re small in numbers on most games, but pissing off more and more fans is not good business.
    And I’ll meet LW some of the way on the tarp situation. Hey Lew, open up the 3rd deck (not Mt. Davis nosebleeds) for premium games and price them affordably for families, so we can get maybe 8-10 games around 40-45k, and possibly not placing 30th again in attendance. We know Fla, actually Miami starting next year, will get good crowds for the first year in their new park, so we won’t pass them. Maybe only TB we can place higher than, or Cleveland and Pitt, depending if their in the hunt or not.

  15. ML, what is ridiculous about what I said? Does playing in Japan not screw us out of 1-3 home games?

    • @Dan – I can understand considering A’s fans screwed if the Coliseum was filling up more than 80% of capacity on a regular basis. Fact is, it isn’t. It’s usually much, much worse.

  16. And I have no doubt we’ll probably “sell out” “opening day” at the Coliseum when they get back from Japan. But fact remains it won’t be the actual opening day, and while we’re at it we havent had a true sellout at the Coliseum since 1994.

  17. So moving games away from the Bay Area to halfway aound the world is supposed to generate interest in the game here?

    • @Dan – No, that’s obviously not the reason. Do you really think that having two additional home games and a total of 30,000 in house moves the needle in any meaningful way? I don’t

      Also, given the messy circumstances I don’t think either of us can define the standard for what a “true” sellout is. That’s entirely subjective.

  18. In 1996, while the Coliseum was being refurbished for football, the A’s played their first 6 home games in Vegas. When they finally opened up at home on April 19th, they had 31,320, far short of the then capacity of around 45k.
    FWIW, the year before (1995), after 18 canceled games because of the strike (thanks, Bud), they drew 35,132 on a late May 5th opening. The year after Mt. Davis (1997), they drew 41,235.

  19. The A’s have sold out 5 games, with 4 @36,067, and 1 @35,067, which is their listed capacity.
    1000 standing room tix that were sold for those 4 games.
    The Giants claim to have sold out every game this year, but the attendance figs range from 40,870 to 42,648. Capacity is listed at 41,915.
    Cleveland claimed to sell out a record breaking 455 home games from 1995-2001, and attendance figs ranged from 39,974 to 43,433. Capacity has varied, but is around 43,400.
    Boston shattered the Indians record and some with over 700 consecutinve sellouts now.

  20. That’s great news!!!!
    Now lets get them to remove the 3rd deck tarps for the many premium games we have next year: 7 with the Yanks, 6 with the Bosox, 3 with LA Dodgers, and 3 with the Midgets. Unless we really stink it up on the field, we should improve next year from this year’s attendance figs.

  21. This is why making your displeasure known here (since the FO does read it), on other sites, and most importantly directly is so important. It can yield positive results like this. Tony even you have to admit it was a bad idea if the FO finally came around and did the 180 admitting as much.

  22. Glad they listened.

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