ST. PETERSBURG — For years, Tampa Bay Rays fans often bought tickets on StubHub — and not just because prices were sometimes cheaper.
The ticket-buying section of the Rays' website was so unwieldy that fans simply turned to other outlets for online purchases.
Two months ago, the Rays quietly upgraded the site, adding an interactive map that creates a virtual stroll around the stadium that makes it easier to home in on prices and locations.
"It's night and day better than the old website,'' says Tampa resident Daryl Naskale, 41. "You can scroll around the whole park and look at different prices. I get a better feeling knowing that I am getting the seats I want.''
The Rays installed the new map in June as part of a broader examination of the fan experience at Tropicana Field.
"It became very clear to us that the website was not as seamless and user-friendly as it should be,'' says Michael Kalt, senior vice president for development and business affairs. "Frankly, it was causing us to lose customers to the secondary market.''
The old non-interactive map allowed ticket searches only one section at a time. To compare prices in multiple locations, fans had to click out of the map each time, then back into a new section. Keeping various prices and seat numbers in mind often required hand-written notes. The old map also gave no visual clues of where seats were located within a row.
A fan with a bum leg wanted a left aisle seat? Too bad. A party of eight preferred to sit four in one row and four in the row behind? No way.
"It was a crap shoot,'' Naskale says. "You picked a price level and you had to hope the seats were decent. Or you had to double back and do it over again. It didn't give you many options.''
The new map works like an airline seating chart. You can see where each available seat is located anywhere in the stadium and hover on it for a price. If you want to buy, you click on it and print your ticket from home.
Comparisons are easy by zooming in and out. Say a fan wants upper deck tickets. Seats are available in Section 300, right behind home plate, but in Row Q, which is fairly high up. At one glance, the fan can also see seats one section over in 301, Row E. Not directly behind home plate, but closer to the action.
It is too early to tell whether the interactive map has boosted ticket sales, Kalt says. "We'll have to look at the end of the year. But it certainly can't hurt to make the user experience better.''