For 20 years, the city of Los Angeles didn’t have an NFL team. And for 20 years, it seemed that L.A. was doing all right as a sports city. But during those 20 years, L.A. became the go-to city for NFL owners to tease about moving so they could get hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to build new stadiums and increase their net worth without taking on the financial risk.
And then in 2015, a team decided to actually move to L.A.: Stan Kroenke’s Rams. The Rams had only been in St. Louis since 1995, and they played in LA before that, so you could argue that the Rams were “coming home.” But let’s face it, Kroenke would have moved the team to Fairbanks, Alaska if they gave him a bunch of tax breaks to build a new stadium.
Okay, with everything going on in L.A., maybe one NFL team won’t be so bad. But Chargers owner Dean Spanos saw the new stadium being built in Inglewood and attached the Chargers to the Rams’ plans, and now we’re seeing two NFL teams in the same city. And while the Inglewood stadium is being built, the Rams have to play at the LA Coliseum, and the Chargers have to play in StubHub Center, the 27,000 seat home of MLS’ Los Angeles Galaxy.
The attendance for the Rams and Chargers have been pathetic for the first couple weeks.
USC crowd last night. 90K. Rams crowd today. Half empty stadium. USC owns LA. pic.twitter.com/qwbyvoVARV
— Garz (@Garz76) September 17, 2017
On left: Crowd for USC vs. Texas last night before game even started.
On right: Crowd for Rams after the game started.
Same stadium. pic.twitter.com/0KL0mYJa9n
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 17, 2017
— TBogg (@tbogg) September 17, 2017
— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) September 17, 2017
I thought the NFL was the most popular sport in the country but the Chargers can’t even sell out a 27,000-seat stadium. Take a glimpse at a sampling of non-NFL sporting events that had more people than the 25,381 people who attended the Dolphins-Chargers game.
- While not a sell out, Atlanta United broke the MLS single game attendance record with 70,425 people against Orlando City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.
- FC Cincinnati, who play in USL (US Soccer’s second division), drew a paid attendance of 30,417 people Saturday, a USL regular season record.
- The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim drew 36,709 people when they played the Texas Rangers in Anaheim on Thursday.
- Add the Rams’ attendance of 56,612 at the LA Coliseum with the 25,381 from the Chargers game, and the Texas-USC game had more people (84,714). You could even include the people from the Rams and the Chargers, put them in the Coliseum and you’ll still have about 5,000 empty seats.
Now, it’s unfair to compare NFL attendance to MLB and MLS figures. I mean, NFL tickets cost more, and it’s not that people aren’t interested, it’s that tickets are too expensive. Well, if you go to StubHub, the current cheapest ticket at the LA Coliseum for the Rams is $24 against the Texans in November. And if you wait long enough, you can probably get tickets for next to nothing because people are so desperate to offload their tickets. Prices were as low as $6 when the Rams took on the Colts in Week 1.
Chargers tickets are more expensive, and that makes sense given there are only 27,000 seats in their stadium—prices will remain high due to the exclusivity of tickets. Having said that, the Chargers still cannot sell out StubHub Center, even with it only being a 27,000-seat stadium. So demand still isn’t as high as people believe it to be.
So exactly how does this inspire confidence that anything will change when the new stadium is built in 2020? Sure, people will check it out once or twice because it’s new and people are curious, but we all know anyone who isn’t insanely rich is going to be priced out of going to any NFL game. People don’t even want to go to a Rams game now when tickets are $6, why would they want to go to a Rams game when it might cost $600?
You can’t even say people aren’t showing up because both teams are terrible. Yes, both LA teams are terrible but if you look at the NYC market, they are sustaining two teams and have been for decades. The Giants have at least won a couple Super Bowls in recent years, but the Jets have consistently sucked and probably will suck for at least the foreseeable future, and they got 78,160 people for a 6-6 Colts vs. 3-9 Jets game at MetLife Stadium last year.
How long does it take until the NFL realizes that maybe they love Los Angeles way more than Los Angeles loves them? Will they ever? L.A. is a lot of things, and it is a great city, but it isn’t an NFL city. Maybe L.A. could have sustained one team, but two teams seems like an impossible task. I’m sure the Inglewood stadium is going to be state-of-the-art and that it will host some of the greatest sporting events in the world, including Super Bowls, the Olympics, the World Cup, etc. But its primary tenant will be the Rams and the Chargers and if the NFL is privately aware LA cannot sustain two teams, it’s too late to change plans now. That means the NFL, the Rams and the Chargers will just have to hope for the best.