ANNAPOLIS – The Orioles couldn’t sign players like Cal Ripken if the state adopts a proposal to regulate ticket prices at Camden Yards, warned a team representative.
Ravens officials agreed, telling the House Appropriations Committee on Friday that if the state had the final say on ticket prices the teams would be forced into mediocrity.
Against that sort of appeal, Del. Michael Burns, R-Anne Arundel, admitted there is little hope for his bill to prohibit increases in Orioles or Ravens ticket prices without state approval.
But he said it is still the right thing to do, because ticket increases hurt the fans and will eventually turn them away.
“The continuing price rises are turning off people,” said Burns.
His bill would require that any ticket price increase be approved first by the Maryland Stadium Authority. If it passed, Maryland would be the first state to have such a law.
The Orioles recently offset a 14 percent increase in their payroll by raising the price of tickets, which now average about $18 a seat. The average price of a seat at the Raven’s new stadium, excluding club and skybox seats, is $40.37, the Baltimore Sun has reported.
Arthur Bernstein, representing United Sports Fans of America, said a “fan rebellion” might result if the owners continue to raise prices at will.
“It shouldn’t take a Boston Tea Party type thing to see that the fans aren’t happy,” Bernstein said.
He admitted that the idea is radical, but said his group is not.
“We support this bill because we believe it sends a message to the owners of the teams that the fans are not happy and it’s time to exercise some restraint,” Bernstein said.
Burns said he believes in the free marketplace, but that state intervention is needed in the case of professional sports.
“When private businesses receive the use of multimillion- dollar stadiums at the hands of taxpayers — that’s not a free market,” he said.
But the current contracts between the stadium authority and the teams prevent the state from intervening in the pricing of tickets. Team representatives said it should stay that way.
John Pica Jr., a lobbyist for the Orioles, said the team would not be able to put a winner on the field and attendance would drop if the bill is passed.
“They would not be able to sign Cal Ripken to a long-term contract, they would not be able to sign Brady Anderson to a long-term contract,” said Pica.
That would hurt the state in turn, he said, because the admission tax and the rent that the team pays to the stadium authority are both based on ticket revenues.
“The more fans are there, the greater the income to the state,” Pica said.
Gary Alexander, an attorney for the Ravens, told Appropriations Committee members that ticket-price limits “would be an unfair restriction to sign players.”
David Hopcraft, director of community relations for the Ravens, said ticket sales at the new stadium have been very good so far.
“We have not heard a lot of objections to our prices,” said Hopcraft, who said the Ravens have promised fans they will not raise prices for at least three years.