PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Blue Jays have just the ticket for SARS fears

TORONTO: Outside the Far East, no other city has been more consumed by SARS-induced fears than Toronto. It didn't help matters when the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning against "nonessential travel" to Ontario's capital two weeks ago.

TORONTO: Outside the Far East, no other city has been more consumed by SARS-induced fears than Toronto. It didn't help matters when the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning against "nonessential travel" to Ontario's capital two weeks ago.

It is under this cloud of apprehension that baseball's Toronto Blue Jays operate. Attendance to games at the SkyDome had dropped sharply as of late. Despite Major League Baseball's official insistence that travel to the city is perfectly safe, players from opposing teams have consistently voiced doubts about visiting Toronto, with many saying that, other than for the games, they wouldn't leave their hotels. Rogers Communications, the Blue Jays' parent company, looked to rally the city. It opted to offer $1 tickets ($.69 US) for last Tuesday's game against the Texas Rangers in an effort to display solidarity and vitality in the face of SARS. With the average Blue Jay ticket costing a bit more than $20 Canadian ($14 US), Rogers put its money where its mouth was. The public obviously appreciated it, as 34,000 tickets were bought for the reduced price, bringing the night's total attendance to 48,097. By comparison, 17,059 people came to the Jays game versus the Kansas City Royals on the previous Sunday. In all, the move cost Rogers approximately $700,000 Canadian ($484,000 US). Earlier on Tuesday, WHO lifted its warning against travel to Toronto, saying it was satisfied with local measures to stop the spread of SARS. While Rogers' act surely didn't impact WHO's decision, the attitude epitomized by the Blue Jays' owners certainly sent a strong message. As fate would have it, the fans who attended the Jays-Rangers tilt really got quite a bang for their buck, as the two clubs combined for 27 runs. And while the Jays came out on the short end of a 16-11 final, they scored many victories last Tuesday night - winning our PR Play of the Week among them.

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