An­gels see a down­turn at the turn­stile

De­spite team’s strong 2014 sea­son, at­ten­dance falls off pace for hit­ting 3-mil­lion mark

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Bill Shaikin

As the first pitch was thrown at An­gel Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day night, the sur­round­ing sight was all too familiar — gap­ing blocks of va­cant seats in the up­per deck and near the foul poles.

The patches of sparsely pop­u­lated sec­tions dur­ing weeknight games il­lus­trate that An­gels owner Arte Moreno’s trea­sured at­ten­dance streak is in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy. For the first time since 2002 — the year be­fore Moreno bought the team — the An­gels could fail to sell 3 mil­lion tick­ets.

“It could trend be­low that,” said Robert Al­varado, the An­gels’ vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing and ticket sales.

The An­gels’ home at­ten­dance has dropped 4,556 per game from what it was through 29 games last year — the third-largest decline in the ma­jor leagues, ac­cord­ing to Base­ball-Ref­er­, through Wed­nes­day. They are on pace to sell 2.74 mil­lion tick­ets, down al­most 20%

from the record 3.41 mil­lion in 2006.

The slide in sea­son-ticket sales has been steeper. The An­gels have sold about 17,000 sea­son tick­ets this sea­son, Al­varado said — about the same as last year but down close to 30% from 2012 and al­most 50% from the record 31,000 in 2006.

The plum­met­ing at­ten­dance ap­pears pe­cu­liar, given con­ven­tional wis­dom that star play­ers and win­ning teams sell tick­ets. The An­gels boast the con­sen­sus best player in base­ball, Mike Trout, and they are com­ing off a sea­son in which they had the best record in the Amer­i­can League.

Yet the trend does not sur­prise Al­varado. He said the strength of the re­sale mar­ket — StubHub, Tick­et­mas­ter’s Ticket Ex­change, and sim­i­lar ser­vices — means that fans do not have to buy or share sea­son tick­ets to get a good seat. And, since the re­ces­sion hit in 2008, fans have be­come in­creas­ingly in­ter­ested in mini-plans rather than in buy­ing a seat for all 81 games.

“It’s not that they have quit on the An­gels,” Al­varado said. “They may have just stepped down from sea­son seats.”

The An­gels have fo­cused on sell­ing good seats at strong prices rather than us­ing deep dis­counts to try to sell ev­ery seat in the house, Al­varado said, adding that fans buy­ing a $5 ticket are less likely to spend much on food, drinks or mer­chan­dise.

He said the An­gels are about even with last year in rev­enue from tick­ets and con­ces­sions. Group sales are up, and so are luxury suite rentals. Do­nated tick­ets — char­i­ties and civic groups buy blocks and give them to schools, mil­i­tary per­son­nel and the like — are down.

The Dodgers are on pace to lead the ma­jor leagues in at­ten­dance for the third con­sec­u­tive year and could ap­proach the club record of 3.86 mil­lion tick­ets sold, set in 2007. Al­varado said the An­gels have not heard from fans can­cel­ing An­gels seats to buy Dodgers seats.

The Dodgers have capped sea­son-ticket sales at 35,000. Al­varado said the Dodgers build that base in part by sell­ing blocks of seats to bro­kers and re­sale out­lets.

“They’ve got a sig­nif­i­cantly larger whole­sale busi­ness than we do,” Al­varado said. “We choose not to go that model.”

Such prac­tices are com­mon in sports, driv­ing at­ten­dance in the hope that fans with dis­count tick­ets might spend on park­ing, food and sou­venirs and might pay more for a ticket in the fu­ture. The Dodgers de­clined to dis­cuss their mod­els for ticket sales.

“We are very lucky to have such a strong and loyal fan base and they con­tinue to come to Dodger Sta­dium in record num­bers,” said David Siegel, the Dodgers’ vice pres­i­dent of ticket sales.

Jered Weaver, who has pitched in Ana­heim since 2006, was not about to won­der aloud where the fans have gone.

“We’ve had some loyal fans through the years,” Weaver said. “We’ve been get­ting 3 mil­lion for a long time now.

“When you win, they’re go­ing to show up. When you’re not win­ning, they’re not go­ing to show up.”

But ticket sales did not go up af­ter a sea­son in which the An­gels won 98 games.

“It was spo­radic,” Weaver said. “It wasn’t like we were hot for six months. I’ve got noth­ing but great things to say about our fans. They come out and show their sup­port as of­ten as they can.”

The An­gels are the fourth ma­jor league team for closer Hus­ton Street, af­ter stints with the Oak­land Ath­let­ics, Colorado Rock­ies and San Diego Padres. Though the An­gels’ at­ten­dance decline is sig­nif­i­cant, the team still av­er­ages 33,861 per home game, which ranks sixth in the ma­jor leagues.

“This feels like a packed house ev­ery night,” Street said. “I’ve been in other places where it is de­cid­edly not that way. We’d have Wed­nes­day day games where you were count­ing the fans.

“You play in front of 30,000-plus peo­ple ev­ery night, it feels pretty cool. You ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

The An­gels’ at­ten­dance might yet rise as school lets out. The New York Yan­kees come to Ana­heim in June, the Bos­ton Red Sox in July and Dodgers in Septem­ber. If the An­gels com­pete in a tight pen­nant race, Al­varado said, they might chal­lenge the 3-mil­lion mark.

The An­gels won the World Se­ries in 2002. They hit 3 mil­lion for the first time the next year, and in ev­ery year since then.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever see our sea­son-seat sales where they were eight or nine years ago,” Al­varado said. “It may take an­other world cham­pi­onship or two to cre­ate that frenzy again.”

Rick Loomis Los An­ge­les Times

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