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It's official: Dodger Stadium is half-empty

August 16, 2011 | 10:39 am

Stadium3
It's no joke. The Dodgers really are playing to a half-empty stadium, according to testimony Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The Dodgers' turnstile count this season is projected to be 2.2 million to 2.3 million, testified Milton Arenson, president of FMI, the company that handles merchandise sales for the team.

If every one of Dodger Stadium's 56,000 seats were filled for every game, the team's attendance would be 4.536 million. If the Dodgers attract 2.25 million fans this season, they would play to 49.6% of capacity.

The turnstile count reflects the gravity of the city's dissatisfaction with the Dodgers. The Dodger Stadium turnstile count was 3.6 million in 1982, so a 2.25-million count this season would represent a drop of 37.5%.

Under Major League Baseball rules, teams need only announce the number of tickets sold, not the number of tickets used -- that is, the turnstile count.

The Dodgers are on pace to sell fewer than 3 million tickets for the first time since 1992, when they lost 99 games. They sold 3.86 million in 2007, the record under the ownership of Frank McCourt. They sold 3.76 million in 2009, when they advanced to the National League Championship Series for a second consecutive season, and sold 3.56 million last year.

Arenson called the Dodgers' attendance "horrific." He said his company signed its contract with the Dodgers in October 2009.

"The day after we signed the contract, Frank McCourt was on the front page of the L.A. Times having filed for separation," Arenson said.

Arenson said he might not have pursued the contract had he known about the pending McCourt divorce and the Dodgers' financial instability, which he said he learned from court filings in the divorce proceedings. FMI attorney Arthur Rosenberg said the first two years of the contract have been "disastrous" for the company.

Still, the company did not ask out of the contract. Under cross-examination, Arenson acknowledged that FMI has withheld more than $300,000 in payments owed to the Dodgers. Arenson also acknowledged to Dodgers attorney Sidney Levinson that the team was in compliance with the FMI contract.

"Is there any provision in this agreement that requires the Dodgers to meet a certain attendance minimum?" Levinson asked.

"Not that I'm aware of," Arenson said.

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-- Bill Shaikin

Photo: There were plenty of empty seats at Dodger Stadium during a game against the Washington Nationals on July 24. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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