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Dodger Stadium: Are those growing empty seats a protest against the McCourts?

May 31, 2010 |  6:48 am
This is a personal observation. There is nowhere to go to back up this claim with facts. No one to confirm or deny, or at least willing to do so.

It’s what I see: a Dodger Stadium with swelling no-shows.

Not only entire sections devoid of fans, but rows and rows of empty seats interspersed with live bodies. Sections that look half full.

And not just in an area or two, but throughout the stadium.

Some games, the most beautiful ballpark in baseball seems half empty.

Not that you would know it by the team’s announced attendance figures. The Dodgers currently claim an average paid attendance of 43,712 -- third highest in baseball.

The key term here is "paid" attendance. Actual attendance is no longer announced. Baseball stopped releasing no-shows in 1992. I put in a request to both the Dodgers and Major League Baseball asking for the actual attendance figures, which, as expected, was politely declined.

Still, I suspect people are staying away in growing numbers. And it’s not as if baseball tickets are still relatively inexpensive. Any tickets below the reserved level range from $50 to $250 apiece, and that’s not counting the $500 to $650 Dugout Club seats or the suites.

People are just letting those tickets burn? That’s wasting some serious change.

So if true, the question becomes why? Too much hyper interest in the Lakers? Too many unattractive teams early in the home schedule? Too many conflicts with school still in session?

Or could it possibly be a rebellion against ownership?

Whether it’s over their extravagant lifestyle, not paying taxes for six years, a shrinking team payroll or just their nasty divorce, many have seemingly turned against Frank and Jamie McCourt.

And the only way for people to ultimately protest is to stay away. To punish the McCourts by withholding funds.

The cost of a ticket, of course, is only the beginning of the revenue generated off those in attendance. There is parking and food and beer and souvenirs.

That’s a lot of missed revenue on nights when stadium seats seem half empty.

With so many large ballparks being shut down to make room for newer -- and cozier -- models, the Dodgers now own the largest ballpark in the major leagues, with a seating capacity of 56,000. Next comes new Yankee Stadium at 52,355.

The Dodgers, however, are operating at 78.1% of capacity, lowest among the top 11 teams in attendance.

Dodgers fans have been historically -- some would argue ridiculously -- loyal through the years. The Dodgers have drawn over 3 million fans for 14 consecutive years.

But when a stadium that big is barely half full, it gets noticed. And if it continues, the lack of revenue will have an impact.

-- Steve Dilbeck
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