$1 seats? Must be front row
The Rockies sold $31
tickets for a buck, and it did not matter. This was a night for lonely
hearts at Coors Field, when rather than introducing the starting
lineups, it might have been faster for the ballpark announcer to recite
the names of all customers actually present in the stands.
How big a joke was the alleged attendance of 22,454 on
a frigid Wednesday? By the eighth inning of Colorado's 7-5 victory
against Houston, there were more stoic ushers (two) than shivering
spectators (zero) in the center-field bleachers.
It was a stark reminder of the worst financial blunder
ever committed by the Rockies, a bigger waste of money than the millions
thrown away on failed ace Mike Hampton. Franchise ownership got fat and
happy, with the mistaken belief the fans would never stop coming and the
good times could go on forever.
"That's tough when you come out and want to watch the
home team win, and we are not winning," Rockies outfielder Larry Walker
said. "I have always said the prices are outrageous from the minute you
park your car."
Remember? Back when generous fans were so trusting as
to build the Rockies a cozy new ballpark with a capacity of 43,800, a
young franchise grew greedy.
The owners reached into their wallets for an extra $30
million to enlarge the blueprint of the original Coors, popping the top
in right field. They added nearly 7,000 seats that now sit empty night
after night, mocking a good thing gone bad.
For anybody who scrambled for tickets here in 1995,
when Blake Street was the hottest address in the major leagues, the dead
zone that Coors Field has become is almost spooky.
"It's glaring," Walt Weiss said. Once a player in
baseball's best party, he now serves as an instructor for the struggling
Rockies. "It went from being the most special place in the major leagues
to kind of just another ballpark."
Although still beautiful, the silence of Coors Field
is now deafening. Fans have given up on the Rockies.
"I take the fans' side," Walker said. "If I am a
baseball fan, it would be tough to come out here."
Once the unbeatable attendance leader, the Rockies are
so desperate for an audience that prime seats, with a retail price of
$31, have been marked down to one buck each. Unbelievable, but true: Any
spectator willing to brave the cold could purchase four tickets with a
face value of $124 for a five-dollar bill, and get change back.
Rockies tickets have become barely worth the paper
they are printed on. And know what is even more amazing?
These ridiculous prices were not being offered by
frantic scalpers anxious to unload product as the thermometer plummeted
to 45 degrees at first pitch.
Throughout the season, the team itself has offered
discounts so deep as to acknowledge the on-field product is nearly
Plastered in the front window of a Rockies Dugout
Store located in a suburban strip mall, there are signs posted with the
shameless urgency of a panhandler: "1ST LEVEL SEATS FOR $1." Too good to
be true? It's too sad to be fiction.
The Rockies, who once enjoyed 203 straight sellouts in
Coors, have been reduced to begging. Tickets for a franchise that has
drawn more than 37 million fans now can be had for less than a 20-ounce
But here's the catch: You are required to buy $25 in
Rockies merchandise adorned with the team logo as a stipulation for
getting two seats for two bucks. This is harder than it sounds,
especially when your 8-year-old son declares only a dork would be caught
wearing a Rockies T-shirt to school.
Nevertheless, a Rockies shot glass ($2.99) can be used
for medicinal purposes to deaden the pain of watching Walker hit .279. A
purple-and-black dog collar ($10.99) is perfect for keeping general
manager Dan O'Dowd on a short leash.
The Rockies are practically giving away this junk. For
a total outlay of $57.63, it was possible to obtain tickets and
souvenirs with a list price in excess of $175, a whopping 67 percent
Lest anyone think this a September clearance sale, the
store clerk insisted these bargains have been available almost all
summer. I know he was telling the truth, because I got the same deal to
see San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds and the first-place Giants in
early July, when the Rockies were trying to dupe folks their undermanned
team was in the playoff hunt.
Slashing prices is risky business for a franchise so
dependent on gate receipts to meet budget.
Good seats at 67 percent off? It seems like a great
deal, unless you are one of those poor saps still paying retail for