'Damn Set of Thieves'

Sat, Mar 10, '07

 

Michelle McDonald By MICHELLE McDONALD in Jamaica

While waiting on my Media Pass at the Accreditation Centre last Thursday, someone I knew said she had heard that parking at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium cost J$500.00, and you had to shell out J$150.00 for a cup of water. No bottles allowed, remember, so you cannot stock up at the supermarket before the game, to reduce costs.

I don't live in Jamaica now, but I recalled occasionally buying bottles of water from guys at the traffic light, and I was sure I had paid J$50.00 each time. Maybe I was mistaken. Maybe she was mistaken, and in my mind, I passed it off as hearsay.


To get ready for the trek from Kingston to Trelawny for my first Cricket World Cup event, I re-read the list of prohibited and restricted items, packed my bags and set off with three other persons. When I told one of those persons what I had heard about the prices, his response was "damn set of thieves". I really hoped to find that that was not the case.

Setting off at 7am was certainly too late, however, we did not encounter as much traffic as had been anticipated, even on the dreaded Mount Rosser, where many a trailer has broken down in the past, causing traffic to come to a standstill.

Bypassing Ocho Rios, we cut through Steer Town to end up at Drax Hall. Conversation during the journey included the fact that two persons had bought tickets for the Party Stand for US$40.00 each (J$2, 680.00), and were miffed that it only included one drink, along with the usual meal and music. They had also heard that there were no seats.

Before remodelling, the Party Stand (the 'Mound') at Sabina Park offered seats. The price for a Mound ticket started at J$2,500 with unlimited drinks. The two of us who had bought US$10.00 tickets were ribbing the others, for we were assured of specific seats.

After the scenic drive, we saw the ICC Cricket World Cup signs directing us where to turn off the main road. After parking in the marl-surfaced car park, we headed inside. "Extra tickets….Miss, you have any extra tickets?" was the cry from several people who had turned up to the venue without tickets. If ticket holders had known what was to come, they would surely have sold their tickets to the desperate souls.

The processing of spectators went very smoothly, and it included all the steps that Superintendent

Redhead from Grenada had described. The West Indies were playing so badly though, that from the time we parked to when we were shown to our seats, two wickets had fallen to add to Gayle and Chanderpaul. Within 5 minutes, another fell. Then another, and 15 minutes into our sun tan (our stand was uncovered and the sun was hot, hot, hot), seven wickets had fallen. The West Indies players were robbing us of an exciting day out in beautiful surroundings. They were not the only ones.

Parking was indeed J$500.00 and that was only because we had less than 5 persons. The rates got higher based on how many persons you were carrying. Normal parking rates for an event like that are between J$200 – 300. When the ninth wicket was down, I decided to go and look for lunch. I was originally going to take J$500 with me, but instead took J$1,000. It was a good thing I did.

I scanned the concession stands for meals and prices. I was on the hunt for two fish meals. One stand was selling steamed fish which would have been ideal. Price? J$800 each. Normally, such a meal would cost approximately J$350 maximum, sometimes less. I continued my search, scanning price lists as I went along.

The bottle of water, thrown into a Pepsi cup, was indeed J$150. A Red Stripe Beer was $200. A beer drinker said he would normally have paid J$150 – J$160. I saw a friend with Tropicana Fruit drinks, lamenting the high J$180 price tag. What would have been a normal price, I asked. "J$80!" she exclaimed.

With some creative combining, for my J$1,000, I managed to get a Tofu meal, a small Tofu wrap, a small cup of spilt peas soup and one bottle of water. We would have to share the water.

When it was evident that India was going to knock off the paltry 85, our driver called from the Party Stand to suggest that we leave then in order to miss the crowds. On reaching outside, spectators were leaving in droves. I heard one gentleman say "well, at least I can go to the beach". The water did look inviting. I saw another leaving and asked if he too was going for a swim. "Beach? No, I going for a refund!"

By 1:20pm, we were back in the car on our way to Kingston. The Party Stand goers were livid. They had not got lunch. Why? There was only one food stall, with a line as long and stationary as the traffic you could encounter on Mount Rosser on a busy day. One actually went outside and bought a drink! I asked them to evaluate their Party Stand experience, for inclusion in this article.

"If you are selling tickets for a Party Stand in the West Indies, you need to tell people BEFORE that there are no seats, because I have been going to the Mound for years and I am accustomed to having seats," said Nicole, an attorney at law. I was about to close my notebook when she added "make sure you put this -- There was NO FOOD, NO DRINKS, NO SHADE, and NO CHAIR. Add the J$2,000 worth of gas for the trip and it is not acceptable. I really feel like I have been raped!"

To rub salt into the wound, we stopped at Scotchie's in Drax Hall for the hungry to be fed. Prices there? Fish and Festival – J$330.00. Half a chicken – J$380.00. Red Stripe beer – J$95.00. Water? J$50!

On the eve of the feature Warm-up matches, Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse, Chair of the Event organisers' Medical, Heath & Anti-Doping Directorate issued a simple advisory on hydration to all persons attending Cricket World Cup matches. It included the following:
Drink liquids regularly throughout the course of the day, not just when you feel thirsty.
With restrictions on in full force for this World event, the prices I encountered on Friday make this press release almost laughable. Patrons will have to pay three times the price they would normally pay for water. Many have already balked at the price of match tickets. As I move around the region, I will see if these high prices are a trend.

I am not sure if the exorbitant prices, when converted to US$ or £, compare favourably, but in Jamaica, the consensus is that these prices are robbing our pockets. "Damn set of thieves" does indeed sound apt to describe this obvious price gouging.

The question though is, were the concessionaires left with no choice but to raise their prices to cover the ICC fees? Did the ICC CWC WI 2007 Inc. Project Officer – Catering have any input into concessionaire pricing? I will be searching for answers to these and other questions throughout the tournament.