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Rays throw a changeup to season ticket holders

Brian Hartz

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Photo credit: Tampa Bay Rays Twitter account

The always-innovative Tampa Bay Rays have done away with traditional season tickets for the 2021 season, instead opting for a six-tiered membership model that will allow the organization and fans more flexibility as professional sports teams continue to operate under reduced capacity because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The concept is similar to flex packs offered in past seasons, but instead of paying for fixed seat locations at a select number of games throughout the season, fans who opt for the membership model will have access to different seats and can change the number of tickets they need for each game. The membership tiers range in price from $500 to $20,000.

While the new model might seem pricey at first glance, Jeff Tanzer, the Rays vice president of ticket sales and service, told the Catalyst it’s all about providing flexibility in a time of great uncertainty.

“This provides somebody the flexibility to redeem their money however they see fit,” he said, “for the games they want to attend, the number of seats they want for each of those games and the locations where they want to sit. And for this commitment that people are making, they’re going to be receiving season member benefits. In the past, flex pack buyers did not receive those types of benefits.”

Benefits, Tanzer said, include discounted parking at Tropicana Field and priority access to ticket presales.

“That’s really one of the biggest benefits of this product,” he added. “Because when we’re talking about having limited capacity this year — and granted, at this point, we don’t know what that capacity will be — the people who are going to get first shot at tickets when they do go on sale, when we’re able to bring fans back, it’s going to be these members.”

Season membership holders will also get priority access to postseason tickets, if the Rays — who ran away with the American League East and won the pennant last year — qualify for the playoffs.

“You’re talking about priority access to tickets, parking and then the postseason,” Tanzer said. “Those are just some of the benefits that they’re going to receive throughout the course of the season.”

Existing season ticket holders won’t be left out in the cold, however. They can apply what they’ve already paid to a membership plan for the 2021 season, or “pause” their account until 2022. They can also request a full refund if desired.

“We’re letting them know that this is the product we’re going with for the 2021 season,” Tanzer said. “Because of the limited capacity that we’re going to have, we’re not able to offer them their old seat locations. But we’d love to have them come out to the ballpark this year.”

Season ticket holders who elect to pause their accounts won’t lose their preferred seat locations when the Rays are able to lift attendance restrictions.

“Should we be in a position where we can safely have full capacity next year,” Tanzer said, “they would have the opportunity to renew their seats then.”

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