The Dodgers are playing to a lot of empty seats this spring.
They need to figure out a way to computer generate some bodies in the stands at Camelback Ranch for the TV cameras. A stadium that holds 13,000 is a step away from embarrassing when it’s less than half full, which it often has been this spring.
Maybe the Arizona novelty for Dodgers fans has worn off. Maybe it’s a result of a losing season or a state hit hard by the recession. Or just possibly, it’s a weariness with ownership.
Either way, Dodgers’ attendance has plummeted this spring. Last year the Dodgers averaged a record 11,589 in 17 home games. This spring, through 10 games, they are averaging 6,645.
[Updated, 1:30 p.m. Tuesday: Those figures are inflated by including the two games played at Dodger Stadium. Dodgers public relations vice president Josh Rawitch said Tuesday that the average attendance exlusively at Camelback last season was 8,893.
Current attendance at Camelback through 11 games has been 7,144, a drop of 19.7%, significantly less than the 42.3% figure I reported that included the two games at Dodger Stadium. Based on the 6,645 average attendance at the time of the original post, attendance would have been down 25.3%.]
Attendance throughout Arizona is down significantly, and in spring training in general. Major League Baseball attendance this spring has fallen an average of 1,309 a game, or 17.2%.
That’s still a long way from 42.3%.
The Dodgers said attendance in the Arizona area has been particularly hit because the Rockies and Diamondbacks opened a new stadium in Glendale. They are two of only five teams with an increase in spring attendance this season.
"There’s no doubt that adding two more teams to the Phoenix area, including the Diamondbacks whose hometown fans are several hours closer to spring training, has had an impact around the whole league," Rawitch said.
"But we’re still seeing tons of Dodger fans at Camelback and the feedback that we’re getting from those who make the trip from Los Angeles continues to be extremely positive.’’
Maybe so, but there are less of them to offer feedback.
There’s no telling if this portends a problem for the Dodgers during the regular season. The Dodgers don’t normally release their season ticket figures, though they are reportedly on target for where they expect to be. Still, last season the no-shows were significant.
The Dodgers are expecting a large crowd Saturday and when the Cubs arrive on Tuesday, so their final spring numbers may not be so chilling. For now, though, the empty seats are what gets your attention.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: There were plenty of good seats available for the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game at Camelback Ranch on St. Patrick's Day. Credit: Jake Roth / US Presswire