SBJ/February 2 - 8, 2004/Facilities

Salvaging an idea: Phils’ auction of Vet stuff may morph into yearly event

The Philadelphia Phillies turned the mundane process of selling off parts of Veterans Stadium into a special event. Depending on its success, the club may augment its off-season schedule next year after its first season at Citizens Bank Park.

"Final Pieces" is the name of the 10-hour event Friday at Wachovia Center, which with the Vet is part of the South Philadelphia Stadium Complex. The Vet, home of the Phillies and Eagles since 1971, is scheduled for implosion this spring.

"The impetus for this was to pay tribute to the Vet one more time. We want to make sure that fans had the chance to take home a piece of this place," said Michael Harris, the team's development and financial specialist and a Philly native who met his future wife at the facility in 1996.

Final Pieces will include the sale of portions of the outfield wall and chunks of artificial turf, along with a live auction on the Wachovia Center floor of memorabilia such as the chair of longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas, upper-deck seats where milestone home runs landed and the original blueprints of the stadium.

For the auction, Wachovia Center will set up a stage with seating for 4,000, said John Page, senior vice president and general manager. Items too large to bring into the arena will have images projected on the scoreboard video screen.

Net proceeds benefit Phillies Charities Inc. Past and present Phillies and manager Larry Bowa will participate in a meet-and-greet session with fans, and event sponsor Comcast SportsNet will tape its annual "Meet the Phillies" telecast.

Besides the memorabilia that fans and dealers buy and bid for, there will be kitchen equipment, furniture, tarps and light fixtures donated to schools, churches and Little League programs.

"Ticket sales are moderate, but we expect a significant walkup," Harris said late last month. Admission is $10 with a $50 fee to register for the live auction.

The Phillies incorporated into Final Pieces elements of three team fan-related functions: Holiday Fair, an exclusive event for season-ticket holders; the winter "caravan" tour, in which players and coaches visit malls and shopping centers; and the ALS/Phillies Phestival in June, another charitable event with player appearances and a live auction.

The move to Citizens Bank Park led to the Phillies not scheduling Holiday Fair in 2003 and reducing the 2004 caravan from two weeks to one week. This year's ALS benefit will be at the new ballpark.

Harris said, "Final Pieces isn't designed to replace these other events, but it does combine elements of all three. That's why we think it has enormous potential. If it works, we will consider doing it more regularly" without the focus on the Vet or a live auction.

"It really depends on our fans and what they want," he said.

As part of the deal to build the Phillies' new $458 million ballpark, the city gave the team the responsibility of tearing down the Vet, which it shared with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Phillies were allowed to sell the stadium's assets to offset the cost of demolition.

Last fall, the team sold 13,000 pairs of seats to the public for $280 a pair, which amounts to $3.64 million.

"Whatever is generated won't come remotely close to covering the demolition," Harris said. He said the demolition and site work for the old and new stadiums will exceed $100 million.

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