Students head to Twins game; ticket costs skyrocket

Published 7:18 am Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Metrodome had at least one fan-favorite that Target Field has ceased to match. And though some prefer the brand new ballpark’s perks no matter the expense — area kids are missing out on the Dome’s plethora of cheap seats.

Austin elementary students are headed to Minneapolis this afternoon to see the Twins play the Detroit Tigers. The annual spring field trip comes at a cost though, as the students’ tickets more than quadrupled in price compared to last season.

At Neveln Elementary, crossing guard and student council members spend a school day watching a ball game every season as a ‘thank you’ for their service to the district, explained student council advisor Nikky Krautbauer.

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The kids and their families pay for their own tickets, and the parent-teacher council covers bussing expenses.

This year, the 69 field trip-bound students were asked to dig deeper into their pockets to cover the $22 per ticket price. Last year’s rate was $5.

Dewey Schara is principal of the school where 63 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price lunches. He said the new stadium’s ticket prices are putting the school’s parents and student council — who depleted their balance buying $400 worth of tickets for kids who could not afford them — in a tight spot.

“Our tax-dollars and whatnot are paying for the stadium… Meanwhile, it’s too expensive for most of our kids to even go see them play,” he said.

Worse, Schara and Krautbauer said, is that they initially believed tickets would be $10 to $14 apiece after a conversation with Twins’ ticket sales representatives last fall.

Executive director of Twins’ public affairs Kevin Smith said there was a miscommunication between the two parties and that there just aren’t as many inexpensive seats at Target Field as there were at the Metrodome.

Smith said that the original $10 to $14 estimate was for the cheapest seats in the park — which were not available for such a large group when the school actually put in their order, post-season ticket sales.

Target Field has 39,000 seats to the Dome’s 48,000, he noted, and 24,500 season tickets compared to the Dome’s 11,000.

“Our inventory is just squeezed… And that’s the overriding issue,” Smith said, explaining that the Neveln group will be seated in the cheapest area available today — which happens to be in a section for which group discounts are not offered.

“We don’t ever want to turn away kids, especially school kids,” Smith said. “This was all we could do.”

When the sales department learned Neveln thought they had been given a false quote and felt mislead by the original estimate, they sent the school one baseball bat autographed by player Jason Kubel that, Smith said, they hope the school can auction to offset the expense.

For Schara, the gesture wasn’t enough, and though he’s happy the students made it to the game today, he’ll be sitting Twins games out as a matter of principle.

“Spending $10 in the beginning was a problem for a lot of our families… I don’t think it’s right that we have to wipe out our student council to send these kids to one ball game, that they do deserve to go to,” he said.

About 85 students from Southgate Elementary will attend today’s game too, and they were able to squeeze into a cheaper, discount-available section.

Fifth-grade teacher Jeremiah Osgood said his students paid $16 for $18 face-value tickets, which is still a hike from previous years.

“That was one of our concerns,” he said. “But, we did know there would be an increase.”

Southgate students, of which 63 percent also qualify for free or reduced price lunches, will follow the school’s six-year tradition and spend the morning at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts before the game.

“They’ve been excited about it all year,” Osgood said.

Almost 70 safety patrol students from Banfield Elementary, where half of the student body qualifies for free or reduced price lunches, are attending today’s game too.

They also fit into the $16 per ticket group rate section.

Banfield teacher Stephen Bamrick said they also were also initially told tickets would be $10, but that they were able to make due paying the extra $6 a ticket.

Sumner Elementary, where 69 percent of kids qualify for the free and reduced price lunches, sent their safety patrol and student council to Twins’ game earlier this season for $16 a ticket.

Krautbauer said she was questioning whether to organize the field trip even when she thought it would cost families $10 a ticket, and that she hopes the school can continue to find a way to reward hard-working students with a ball game each year — no matter what happens to ticket prices.

The school will wait to see how the season goes before auctioning off the bat, she added.

“For some of these kids, this is going to be the only chance they ever have to go to a Twins’ game,” Krautbauer continued. “We just can’t take that away from them.”