Fri, May

On the Soapbox: Will Los Angeles support the Rams?

Rams fans filled the courtyard at L.A. Live to watch their home team make the first pick in the NFL Draft. Photo by Jason Lewis

Is L.A. really a front-running, bad sports town?

By Jason Lewis

Please do not argue with the Publisher.
That’s like claiming that LA is a bad sports town.
It just makes no sense. Illustration by David G. Brown

Over the past two decades, whenever the topic of a team moving to Los Angeles came up, people around the nation said that Los Angeles did not deserve an NFL team, and that people in the city did not care about professional football. 

Both of those notions somehow became common logic, even though they were both pretty far from the truth. 

People, mostly who have never lived in Los Angeles, not only said that Los Angeles did not care about football, many of them also said that Los Angeles was not even a good sports town.  That fans in Los Angeles only follows winners. 

But judging by the attendance figures, major sports teams who play in Los Angeles rank among the highest in attendance in their respective leagues. 

This is a Lakers town, and even though they have hit hard times, Staples Center was still at 99.7 capacity for their home games, which is the figure that they hit every single year, including the championship seasons.  Whether the team has been a contender or a lottery team, their attendance figures have not changed.

The Clippers have hovered between 100.6-100.7 since 2011, when they traded for All-Star point guard Chris Paul.  Pairing him with All-Star forward Blake Griffin turned this team into a winner, which boosted their attendance figures.  But even before this became a winning team, they typically were in the middle of the pack in terms of attendance, even though they were one of the worst teams in the league. 

Many people will say that Los Angeles is really a Dodgers town, and their attendance figures back up that claim.  They have led Major League Baseball in attendance in each of the last four seasons.  Over the past decade, they have routinely finished in the top five of the league, outside of the two seasons where fans staged an unofficial boycott of former team owner Frank McCourt.  When news hit that his divorce would affect the ball club, angry fans avoided Dodgers Stadium during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.  After the team was sold, attendance figures went right back up.

The Kings have routinely sold out Staples Center, averaging above 100 percent capacity in each of the last five seasons, with a best of 107.6 percent in 2013-2014. 

As for football, the two major teams in Los Angeles are USC and UCLA, and both have been successful in attendance.  In 2014, UCLA averaged 76,650 fans per game.  That same year USC averaged 73,272.  Compared to NFL attendance totals, both UCLA and USC would have been in the top 10 in league attendance for that season.

More evidence that Los Angeles is a great sports city in terms of attendance: on October 7, 2006, USC, UCLA, the Dodgers, and the Kings all played on the same day.  USC, UCLA, and the Kings were early in their seasons, while Dodgers were in the playoffs.  On that one day, a total of 230,337 fans attended those four games.  How many cities in the nation could sell that many tickets to sporting events in a single day?

The city of Los Angeles has a population of 3.8 million people, ranking it behind only New York City.  The County of Los Angeles has 10.1 million people.  Factor in Orange County (3.1 million), Riverside County (2.3 million), San Bernardino County (2 million), and Ventura County (839,000), the Greater Los Angeles Area has 18.3 million people. 

With 18.3 million people to market to, how can the Rams not be successful?  The team already has a fan base here, there are many people who have been waiting for an NFL team, and also factor in the transplants from other cities who will flock to Rams games when their favorite team is in town. 

The San Diego Chargers have had their attendance supplemented by fans from the opposing teams for years.  It is well known that when the Raiders play a road game in San Diego, Raider fans pretty much take over the stadium.  But even when a team like the Broncos plays there, a good third of the stadium will be filled by Broncos fans.  It is like that for every Chargers game.

Rams games may be similar.  The bulk of the stadium will be rooting for the home team, but there will be a lot of transplants there to support the team from their hometown.  Also factor in all of the corporations buying tickets, and the Rams more than likely will not have any issues selling out the 70,000+ seat stadium that is being built in Inglewood.  They have already sold old their 70,000 season tickets for this coming year at the Coliseum.

Even with all of the points mentioned above, many people will still point out that the Raiders and Rams have already left Los Angeles.  While that is true, it is hard to blame this city for the highly questionable actions that were made by former owners Al Davis and Georgia Frontiere.  And looking at the Rams attendance while in St. Louis (they have been in the bottom three in the NFL in each of the last six seasons), tapping into the 18.3 million people that Los Angeles has to offer will shoot them way up the attendance rankings.