New seating finally gives the derriere a much-needed break

Fans at Colorado Mesa and high school games in late April and early May were quick to check out the new first-base seating area, which has stadium seating. During JUCO, they will be sold as reserved seats only.

Let’s face it: Sitting on metal bleachers isn’t the most comfortable way to watch any sporting event, let alone 19 baseball games in eight days.

You can bring a cushion, a sports seat that gives you some back support or just fold up a blanket to help the derriere make it through a three-hour ballgame (x19).

Anything and everything has been tried, but sitting through the JUCO World Series gives new meaning to the term “bleacher bum.”

So when the architect drawings of the Lincoln Park stadium upgrade were revealed, you couldn’t help but notice the dark green seats in the new first-base section.

Individual stadium seats? At Suplizio Field? Cup holders? Still in the shade of the press box?

Yep. Nearly 900 seats in the new first-base stands are stadium seating, but with those seats came some issues.

First off, the old first-base bleachers were home to some long-time fans. They came to the park bright and early, set up camp and stayed all week. They had their favorite spots, some high up in the corner, others in the center back section, some right down front.

And, quite honestly, many of those fans were upset to learn that if they were to sit in their favorite spot, they were going to have to pay a premium, because those seats are now reserved, $145 for the entire tournament.

It was an issue that caused some angst among the executive committee for the JUCO World Series. However, with the growing number of complaints about rows of seats that were being “saved” by fans taping down blankets and then sitting empty until the night games, it was time to offer reserved seating.

“It’s the perfect time to make that change,” said Bruce Hill, the tournament vice-chairman for operations. “That was driven by the blanket problems; we’ve got to do something. We get that you want to save seats, but buy them and you can save them all you want.”

From Feb. 15 through May 10, every seat in the ballpark was up for grabs. The stadium seats were $145 for the week, all others $75. Nearly 600 reserved tournament passes were sold, more than 400 the first week.

The price was the biggest obstacle for some.

“The only negative is a price concern for (some) members of the community,” said Landon Balding of Monumental Events, which handles the reserved seating for the tournament. “They would say I’d love the opportunity to reserve, but I can’t afford to. For the most part, that number was surprisingly low.

“People were excited they didn’t have to come out two hours early to get their seat.”

Fans can still walk up and buy a single-game reserved ticket in the first-base section for $12 for day games, $15 for night games.

Sections of seats behind both dugouts have been blocked off and will be sold to parents and fans of the teams so they can sit behind their club.

General admission passes remained at $35, and more than 6,000 GA seats will be available for every game. Hill said they don’t envision ever going to all reserved seats, trying to keep the tournament affordable for everyone.

When the stadium project was completed and Colorado Mesa and the four local high schools wrapped up their seasons at Suplizio Field, fans jumped at the chance to check out the new seats. Next season, Mesa will sell those as reserved seats, like the university does with the individual seats on the west side of Brownson Arena during basketball season.

The first-base seats weren’t the first snapped up when they went on sale, though.

“Behind home plate is the most popular area right now,” Balding said in early May. It’s kind of crazy, all of a sudden the first-base line has started jumping up after the CMU games. People go the opportunity to sit in them and started thinking, ‘Maybe it’s worth it.’ We’ve been fielding a lot more calls on them.”

Every seat in the stadium had to be numbered, not only for JUCO, but for the Grand Junction Rockies. For years, the stadium occupancy was listed at 10,000.

By measuring each row of seats and dividing accordingly (each seat is 20 or 21 inches wide), the official seating capacity at Suplizio is now 7,041, said Rob Schoeber, the director of the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department.

“We may never, ever break the all-time attendance record again because we know how many seats there are now,” Tournament Chairman Jamie Hamilton said, laughing.


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