Like the 3rd deck itself, this topic has been covered. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!! Do you see what I did there? My position on Tarpgate today is the same as it was when I first heard about it: I don't believe the best available solution was considered or implemented. Putting conspiracy theories aside (please, can we keep them out of this thread?) and just looking at the bottom line, I want to look at the considerations that make the question complex -- and then ask, "Why didn't the A's elect to do __ instead?" I'll fill in the blank in a bit.
Here's what I understand and accept:
* It is not cost-effective to sell tickets to the 3rd deck when you can only sell a small percentage of the seats out.
* It is problematic to open the 3rd deck up and staff it, not knowing how many fans will actually show up to sit there.
* At a typical game, the A's aren't selling out, or even near selling out, the other decks, let alone the 3rd deck.
* It is not feasible to repeatedly put the tarp on or take it off -- realistically, you have to either tarp it off or don't, period.
However, imagine that the A's sold 3rd deck season, and day of game, tickets, to the following games:
That's about 15 games where you know you can fill the 3rd deck to 80%-100% of capacity. (Adding Mother's Day, Little League Day, Fan Appreciation Day, etc., you could argue for about 20 games but I'm taking the most conservative figure where you can flat out rely on selling out most or all of the 3rd deck.) For those 15 games:
* Fans can buy season tickets, or advance tickets, for the 3rd deck.
* You hire 30 more ushers, a few extra on the cleanup crew, a couple 3rd deck security guards, and maybe an extra "day of game" ticket salesperson.
* No concessions sold in the 3rd deck. Sorry, you get what you pay for -- if you want to eat, you have to go down to the 2nd deck or to the Eastside Club, or bring your own food.
On a night when you sell out the 3rd deck, my rough Math says you will take in about $150,000 plus souvenir sales and spend less than $10,000 on additional personnel. You also create an atmosphere of major league excitement that only a crowd of 40,000+ can produce.
What about the rest of the games? It's simple. You don't sell season tickets, advance tickets, or day of game tickets, to the 3rd deck. The 3rd deck is officially "closed." However, you don't tarp it off and you don't worry about it.
Fans aren't trying, in droves, to pay for good seats and then sneak into the worst ones. Oh, you're worried about fans sneaking up there to smoke weed? Or sneaking up there to try to join the "1/4 mile high club"? News flash: In the bathrooms, the walkways, and the tunnels, fans are closer to children and harder to spot. You're concerned about fans hanging out in plain sight and breaking the law? Why? Total non-issue. (If you're that worried about it, you can always askto do a walk-through every couple of innings -- by May he'll have nothing better to do and he's already paid for.)
I don't accept that the "problem" of having a deck that's closed but basically unsupervised is some huge problem that requires you to tarp the whole thing off and sell 10,000 fewer tickets even when you can. And I don't accept the premise that the 3rd deck has to be open all the time or closed all the time. Ultimately, I don't accept that the solution I outline wouldn't be far better, both from a financial and a baseball standpoint, than making the 3rd deck available either 0 or 81 times.
The A's attendance may not be good, but it's as predictably good on these 15 dates as it is predictably bad on the rest. It bugs me that the A's have let these opportunities slip away every year -- even if they felt the need to punt on those painful Tuesday nights when I would call the ticket office to ask what time the game started and the lady would reply, "When can you make it?"