A sparse crowd attends a game between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers won 1-0. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Dodgers have spent 2011 in turmoil. Just two years after they led the National League in wins and made their second straight NLCS appearance, they are on pace to lose 88 games and are in some danger of finishing last in the NL West.
Add that to the multiplicity of legal actions owner Frank McCourt is involved with in a desperate attempt to keep the franchise and the horrific beating San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow suffered at the hands of some thugs outside Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, and this has truly been an annus horribilis for what was once the jewel franchise of the National League.
Today, the Los Angeles Times reports that Dodger Stadium is literally half-empty, as presented in testimony in the Dodgers' bankruptcy case:
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%.
The Dodgers were the first major league franchise to draw three million fans, doing so in 1978, and under MLB's policy of announcing tickets sold (rather than turnstile count), they had drawn three million every year but one (2000) since 1996. This year, their average per-game announced attendance of 36,876 is down 17% from last season, and if that average holds, they will draw slightly under the three million mark this season -- but as noted above, the actual number of fans attending the games will be only about 75% of that total.
With the McCourt saga still playing out in court, the poor play of the team on the field, and the perception among some in the Los Angeles area that Dodger Stadium is a dangerous place to be, it's in MLB's best interest to get things settled in the McCourt divorce and Dodger Stadium bankruptcy cases as soon as possible, because Bud Selig & Co. can ill afford to have a team in the nation's second-largest metropolitan area completely turn off its fanbase.