The Major League Baseball franchise scheduled to move to Washington next year finally made a major announcement about next season yesterday, unveiling the means by which fans will be able to purchase season tickets. But the result of the message: Wait till next week.
The Expos, who are supposed to move from Montreal and begin play at RFK Stadium next April, pending the approval of a stadium plan in the District, completed a deal with Ticketmaster and will begin accepting deposits for season tickets next Thursday. For now, fans are encouraged to put their names on the list for season tickets by going to the team's Web site, www.dcbaseball.com. Club President Tony Tavares and his top assistant, Kevin Uhlich, said the amount of the deposit will be determined next week.
"We'll have more details about the process in the next several days," Tavares said. "But this is a big step."
Tavares said a phone number will also be established to register the interest of fans who don't have access to computers. Registered fans will then be sent e-mails or receive phone calls early next week with instructions on how to make their deposit.
Next week's date is good only for season tickets for all 81 home games. Plans of smaller groups of games will most likely go on sale next month, with single-game tickets probably not available until after Jan. 1.
The exact price of each seat has not been finalized, Tavares said, but the average price of a single-game ticket is targeted for $24 to $26. Therefore, Tavares said, the average season ticket will cost between $1,900 and $2,100 per seat.
Though final details are being worked out, the club has a general ticket price structure for RFK, which is expected to hold about 43,500 fans for baseball. Tickets in the upper deck of the outfield will be $7.
"And it's not like we'll take one seat in the outfield and put it at $7," Uhlich said. "That will be from foul pole to foul pole."
Seats will work their way up in small increments -- from $10 per game to $13 to $15 to $20 and so on, Uhlich said. Seats between first and third base will likely cost $45, Uhlich said.
The club has gathered more than 26,000 names of fans interested in tickets through three sources -- the Web site for the Washington Baseball Club, a local group active in landing the franchise whose leader, Frederic V. Malek, is interested in owning it; Major League Baseball's Web site; and a smattering of phone calls to the team's temporary offices in Washington. Tavares said the actual number of interested people is certainly lower, because there is considerable overlap in those names from people who registered in more than one way. The club is in the process of sorting out the people who registered twice.
Tavares said the team will not sell out the entire stadium with season tickets.
"You've got to be available to everybody," Tavares said. "One of the things in sports that has evolved and become more prominent is the exclusion factor. We want to be accessible. We want to be affordable, and we think -- with tickets as low as $7 -- we will be. We're in the business of building a fan base here, not extorting money from people."
The team is still exploring two areas, a 900-seat section directly behind home plate and a spot in the right field corner, that it would like to use as premium seats. The prices on those seats, which would be the most expensive in the park and would perhaps include a meal and wait service, haven't been determined, Uhlich said, because team officials are still figuring out how much concessions will cost to serve those fans. That is among several determinations to be made next week.
The team chose Ticketmaster as a distributor over Tickets.com last month, but spent the last two weeks haggling with lawyers and officials from MLB, which owns the club. Despite the delays -- the club had originally hoped to have season tickets available in mid-October -- Tavares said he is confident that the sales process will go smoothly now. He also said the team should hire much of its front-office staff -- marketing and business people -- in the next week.
"The toughest thing was getting this ticketing deal done," Tavares said. "This has been like 'War and Peace.' But once we finally got the lawyers and the people with other interests out of the way, we were able to move. Now, we're getting close to really being rolling here."