Starting next month, something new and different is coming to the posh club level at the new Camden Yards ballpark: the average fan.
The Orioles and Maryland Stadium Authority announced yesterday a plan to distribute about 300 of the most desirable tickets to fans who haven't been able to sit in or even see one of the ballpark's most exclusive sections.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke already has begun turning over seats in his 10-seat luxury suite to community groups and to local charities with ties to Baltimore.
Tickets to the stadium authority's 12-seat suite and to an Orioles party suite which accommodates about 80 fans will be distributed randomly to Maryland residents who play the Maryland State Lottery instant sports games, proceeds from which are helping to pay off the debt service on the $105.4 million, state-financed stadium.
The free-ticket plan grew out of a suggestion from Del. Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee which monitored construction of the downtown ballpark.
"Without the lottery, this facility doesn't exist. This is a way to pay the people back, ordinary people who paid a dollar to play the instant lottery," Mr. Rawlings said yesterday at a stadium press conference.
"We're targeting the 'Average Joe,' " said stadium authority Executive Director Bruce Hoffman. "This is for the working-class people to have a chance to get into the ballpark and enjoy it."
Complimentary tickets for the 4,500-seat club level will be for eight games in June, July, August and September. Maryland State Lottery officials said they would be handing out Orioles tickets throughout Maryland, picking several lottery locations in each county and giving out
tickets to some fans who buy instant tickets.
"It's the citizens who through their legislative representatives in Annapolis voted for construction," Mr. Rawlings said. "They shouldn't be excluded from a seating level some would say is reserved for corporate leaders."
The 72 luxury suites at the new ballpark have rents of $55,000 to $95,000. Individual seats in the suites cannot be purchased for games. Club level seats are $25 per game, but few are available.