An artist's rendering of what the Pepsi Porch at Comerica Park will look like when construction is complete. (Courtesy Detroit Tigers)
Comerica Park will undergo a $4 million makeover of the right-field Pepsi Porch ahead of Opening Day, complete with 426 additional seats, a new gathering spot to be called the 416 Bar, and with amenities ranging from posh furniture to a nearly 50-foot-long bank of natural-gas flames.
The project, which is funded by the Tigers and by Delaware North Companies Sportservice, is geared to a younger, socially motivated fan demographic. It will boost Comerica Park’s capacity from 41,255 to 41,681.
The new figure is derived from a broad seat rearrangement: 180 newly installed, 773 lower bleachers converted to 694 stadium-style seats, as well as 325 additional places that have been added to the Labatt Blue Light Jungle bleacher stands.
Of the 180 premium seats introduced, 44 will be high-top, four-chair configurations. Any ticket-holder at Comerica Park, including standing-room customers, will be free to enter the 10,000-square foot tract. About 8,000 square feet will be devoted to seats, to the 416 Bar, and to leisure space. An estimated 2,000 square feet will be set aside for restroom expansion.
“We’re excited about this new point of destination we believe fans will enjoy,” said Duane McLean, the Tigers’ executive vice president for business operations. “The new-look right field deck area is open to all fans and will offer an enhanced entertainment value with spectacular field views and increased amenities.
“The New Amsterdam 416 Bar on the Pepsi Porch is a unique social setting with a relaxed outdoor environment, where you can sit comfortably in high-end outdoor furniture, with a nearby fire feature, big flat-screen TVs, and enjoy a ballgame.”
Significant amounts of steel and concrete will be part of the expansion as the new seating area extends beyond the face of the current Pepsi Porch.
Furniture will be sophisticated and designed to target a younger crowd perhaps as inspired by a date night as by the game itself. Waiters and waitresses are expected to assist with orders from the 416 Bar, which is sponsored by the spirits company, New Amsterdam. The 416 Bar gets its name from the distance between home plate and the Pepsi Porch: 416 feet.
Ticket prices for the 180 new seats will range from $30-$57 per game, depending upon date, time, opponent, etc., as part of a new and fluid dynamic-pricing policy the Tigers will apply to all 2014 tickets. Those prices could fluctuate throughout the season in the same manner as airlines fares rise or fall. Labatt Blue Jungle seats, the least expensive of any Comerica Park ticket, will be set within a range of $9-17.
Season-ticket costs will not change once they have been purchased. The Tigers say a locked-in price for any season package should result in discounts of 35 percent or more.
The average price of a Comerica Park ticket in 2013 was $29.54, 13th among the 30 big-league teams. The average price in 2014, the Tigers estimate, will be about $31, which is projected to be as high as 12th or as low as 14th among all teams. Ticket prices are expected to slightly increase or decrease from the norm depending upon how the local market responds to the 2014 team and to variables such as weather, visiting teams, pitching match-ups, the playoff race, etc.
“Dynamic pricing is based on consumer demand and generally affords fans who buy early to save more,” McLean said. “With dynamic pricing, you could see the value of ticket prices increase and decrease based on demand. Season tickets are not affected by dynamic pricing and continue to offer the most significant savings whereas dynamic pricing more accurately prices tickets for individual games.”
The Tigers have been a box-office marvel since 2007, the year they cracked the 3 million mark in attendance for the first time in the team’s 113-year history. They have since reached 3 million in 2008, 2012 and again in 2013. Prior to 2000, the year Comerica Park opened, the Tigers had never drawn more than 2.3 million fans and in only seven seasons had seen attendance eclipse 2 million.
With bigger crowds has come heavier investment by owner Mike Ilitch, whose team has carried one of baseball’s top five annual player payrolls. Re-design of the Pepsi Porch is part of an ongoing series of improvements intended to broaden a venue’s appeal as Comerica Park enters its 15th season.
The Tigers made their first major changes in 2003, when the left-field fence was moved closer to Comerica Park’s infield and the former right-field bullpen area was shifted to empty space behind the left-field wall. Right-field box seats replaced the previous bullpen area.
A new scoreboard and video operation was introduced in 2012, a year after an expanded merchandise area, the D Shop, merged with earlier additions: The Champions Club, Terrace Seating, The Labatt Blue Light Jungle, etc.
The Tigers open their 2014 season March 31 against the Royals at Comerica Park,