To the People

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Make That Four Free Dodger Dogs

The NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers sure know how to treat their fans right. Their pitch? All-inclusive seating.
Launched this season, the outfield eat-a-thon opens 90 minutes before the first pitch and lasts until the start of the seventh inning. Ticket prices range from $20 for group sales to $40 for day-of-game walk-ups. Some games are $25 during designated promotions.

"The fans love it," said Marty Greenspun, Dodgers executive vice president and chief operating officer.

"It was an isolated area that we could really focus and test," he said. "No one has done this big of a seating section for this price in all of professional sports. It's been a hit since day one."

Some items aren't in play -- beer ($8 and $10), ice cream and candy are sold from carts at regular prices. But they are included at some other major-league ballparks, which do versions of the eat-til-you-drop concept in smaller seating areas.

The concept was tested three times last season before being launched in April.

Since then, the Dodgers say the section has sold out eight times in 24 home games, with attendance averaging 2,000 in the 3,000 seats.

The Dodgers have ranked second in attendance in the majors for three consecutive seasons, but the right-field pavilion often sat empty in the 56,000-seat stadium. It opened only if the left-field seats, which cost $10, sold out or for large groups. Last season, right-field seats cost $6-to-$8.

"Even with our great attendance, there's still seats that go unsold," Greenspun said, explaining that this model was a way to offer fans a defined price.

Greenspun said a handful of other professional sports teams have contacted the Dodgers about copying the idea, including the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. The Milwaukee Brewers sent their stadium operations chief to check it out.

Fans are allowed four items per trip to the food counters under the stands. Soda stations offer unlimited drinks and bottled water is free.

"Before, no one wanted to work here. It was a hassle," said Joe Herrera, a 10-year stadium employee. "We used to have the registers and a lot of angry people backed up. Now, the lines go fast and customers don't complain."

At times during a recent game against the Brewers, lines were eight-deep as workers quickly handed over fistfuls of grub. The only registers are at the merchandise counter and beer carts.

"Who can turn down an all-you-can-eat?" asked Lori Nelson, who settled into the bench seats with her two children and her daughter's 18-year-old boyfriend. "It's like going to Vegas."

The boyfriend, Joe Grable, started his evening with two hot dogs, two sodas and nachos. "Right here is probably $30 worth," he said. "This is awesome."

In the rest of the stadium, Dodger Dogs sell for $4.75 and small sodas are $4.75.

Stadium vendors, including Coca-Cola, California Pizza Kitchen and Kraft, want to test their products on the right-field crowd, Greenspun said. Baby Ruth has already passed out free candy bars.

[Ellipsis]

Greenspun doesn't even try to spin the food frenzy so that it jibes with the nation's increased emphasis on eating healthy.

"This is really not about gluttony," he said. "This is really about offering a new fan amenity. It's all up to individual choices."
You bet. And if that's not enough to fill an eminent-domained ravine, how about 1B Nomar Garciaparra chowing down with fans during Carne Asada Sundays?

Unrelated LA obesity hysteria here.

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