The Seattle Sounders and Chivas USA game I attended last Wednesday was surreal. I have never seen a stadium so empty and that includes JV basketball games in middle school (but maybe that’s cause when you’re from a small town in Alaska, there ain’t much else to do). The attendance was announced at 4,021. That’s crap. Maybe that many tickets were sold (or given away in corporate offers), but the capacity of the StubHub center is 27,000 and the stadium was less than 10% full (not nearly 15%). Plus the vast majority of patrons were Sounders fans.
It would be like the New York Yankees going to the Oakland Coliseum in the dog days of Billie Bean’s tenure… say 2009, after the initial highs and before the current resurgence (I lived in the Bay then and often went to see them A’s. It was easy and cheap and fie on San Francisco). Since the Yankees had come to town, more tickets were sold than usual, but attendance was still paltry. That’s what last Wednesday’s game was: a star-studded high-pedigree franchise visiting the worst draw in the league, and the stadium was still depressing.
The state of soccer in America is not wildly vibrant or healthy when one of the franchises in the country’s top flight is so bereft. My wife and I pulled into the lot (not having done our due diligence on the parking situation) and found we needed to drop $15 cash for the lot. We had none, so I asked for the location of an ATM. The attendant shrugged and said, “forget about it.” The apathy for the team and the whole game day experience was more than palpable, it was suffocating.
Chivas piped in crowd noise during players introductions. Piped in crowd noise. Hell, there were more corporate State Farm and Chivas glad handers and promoters in the concourse than fans. I went to the bathroom twice (once before the game and once at halftime, I’d never miss a minute of even this game) and both times I stood lonely at the urinal, the only person in there. That may have been the creepiest part of the evening, as I have never been in a stadium bathroom that wasn’t thronged (even at those old A’s games).
Most of the concession stands were closed (cool looking taquerias and pizzerias) except for the normal hotdog and beer outlets, the ones the stadium maintains. Seriously, you could only buy hotdogs, nachos, beer, pretzels and peanuts. That was it. Isn’t it the 21st Century and stadiums have gotten all gourmet? Another sign of a toxic stadium situation, aside from, oh, everything else I’ve mentioned, the food prices were outrageous: $14 for a beer!
Lots of pundits talk about the sale of the Chivas franchise: who will buy it, whether or not it will stay in L.A., etc. I champion the franchise staying in L.A. The market is big enough, the Western Conference needs teams (the East is expanding too much– unfairly or not) but after actually attending a game… I doubt whether this franchise can pull itself out of the toxic environment it dwells in. Rebrand FC might as well be Lameduck FC or DOA FC. Count your blessings you cheer for Seattle. And if you don’t live here, get on up for a game. The atmosphere is, compared to others, out of this world.