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At $882 a seat, Dodger Stadium is L.A.'s most expensive real estate as World Series begins

At $882 a seat, Dodger Stadium is L.A.'s most expensive real estate as World Series begins
Miguel Chaidez Jr., 42; Miguel Chaidez Sr., 78; and Mark Rios, 25, his grandson. Rios started a GoFundMe page for his grandfather for Dodgers tickets and raised $3,296 in five days. (Los Angeles Times)

At 11:03 a.m. Tuesday, StubHub sent me a message.

"It's game day, Dodgers fans," said the header on the email. "Be there live!"

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I opened the message and got this:

"World Series tickets are just taps away!"

So I tapped. And up popped a seating chart for Dodger Stadium, along with a list of tickets for sale.

The cheapest ticket was $882, and it was at the top of the stadium. I clicked, and I was too late.

"Someone else just bought this ticket," said a pop-up.

Two hours later, I saw three tickets listed for $735 apiece. Please notice that I said "tickets" and not "seats." They were listed on StubHub as "Top Deck Standing Room Only."

Is this insane?

Yes, but baseball is business, especially in October. So who can be surprised that average working stiffs are priced out of the first World Series games in Los Angeles in 29 years?

Fans get ready for the start of Game 1 of the World Series between the Dodgers and the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium.
Fans get ready for the start of Game 1 of the World Series between the Dodgers and the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Prices are so high, three people were raising money for tickets on GoFundMe, according to a spokesperson for the fundraising site.

By midday, $2,740 had been raised for a preschool teacher and "HUGE Dodger fan" named Mrs. Brown.

Another listing said that a woman named Donna Marie lost her Dodger-loving father this year and had raised $2,310 to buy tickets for herself, her husband and "the spirit of her father."

Why didn't I think of this for myself?

Mark Rios, a 25-year-old barber from Lancaster, promised his grandfather a while back that if the Dodgers made it to the series, they'd be in the seats. His grandfather, 78-year-old Miguel Chaidez Sr., learned to speak English by listening to Vin Scully on Dodger broadcasts, but hadn't been to a game in decades.

So Rios put up his plea on GoFundMe, calling his grandfather "one of the nicest and most genuine people you will ever have the pleasure of knowing." He noted that his grandfather is fighting lung cancer. In fact, the elder Chaidez is undergoing chemotherapy.

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In five days, 99 people had donated $3,296. Rios bought two tickets for Wednesday night's game on StubHub for $1,400.

"I'm grateful to everyone," Chaidez Sr. told me by phone.

"We know a few of the people who donated," said his son, Miguel Jr. "But most of them are strangers."

Like the majority of people in Southern California, the Chaidez family has not had the pleasure of watching the Dodgers on TV during the regular season. That's because of continuing disputes over an $8-billion deal the team signed with Time Warner Cable, and the refusal of some carriers to pony up Time Warner's asking price for broadcast privileges.

Looked at one way, the $8 billion helped put winning talent on the field.

Looked at another way, the rich got richer, and lots of loyal fans were left in the dark.

"The Dodgers should hang a sign out front that says, 'For rich people only,' " said Ed Wolfman, a retired Manhattan Beach businessman who was headed to Tuesday's game as one of the lucky fans who got tickets at face value prices.

Someone with a Dodger front office connection owed him a favor, he said. So Wolfman paid the friend $173 apiece, or $346 for two tickets.

That's expensive, said Wolfman, but compared to the scalping that's going on, it was a bargain. He said "a very wealthy man" he knows has a beachfront home in Manhattan Beach, a house in Beverly Hills and "a third one somewhere else." As a Dodger season ticket holder, his friend got World Series tickets at $350 apiece, face value, but intended to go to only one game and sell the rest.

Wolfman offered to buy one, and his friend said:

"I can get $1,000 for them on StubHub. Would you pay that?"

Wolfman declined. He's a serious Dodger fan, but the TV blackout was a turnoff, and "the greed of people who are profiting from the excitement of the average fan is downright disgusting to me."

Hey, it's the American way, and the internet has made it much easier for anyone with a ticket to become a savvy scalper. Strike at the right time, such as during the World Series, and you can make enough money to pay your DWP bill or cover half the cost of your season ticket plan.

"The market has become far more optimized than it was … when some guy in a trench coat would stand on a corner asking if you needed a pair for tonight's game," said David Carter of USC's Sports Business Institute.

StubHub pays big bucks to Major League Baseball for the right to be the official secondary market ticket seller, and Carter said StubHub then provides valuable information to the Dodgers and other teams on the buying habits of its customers.

Tony Knopp, who used to work for StubHub, said the online agency gets paid twice with each ticket transaction. If I listed a $200 ticket and sold it for $2,000, StubHub would take $300 from me and $200 from the buyer, said Knopp. And a cut of that goes to Major League Baseball Advanced Media, a partnership of team owners that generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year in internet-driven profits.

"It's free money," said Knopp, CEO of Spotlight TMS, which helps corporations manage the tens of thousands of tickets they buy for entertaining clients at sporting and entertainment events.

Knopp estimated that of the roughly 55,000 people at Game 1 of the World Series, about 12,500 would be there on corporate and business tickets.

"I'm betting that eventually the government is going to come in and say this is becoming a slush fund," said Knopp. If a bank, for instance, puts clients in $2,500 seats at a Laker game, that's a gift, and it needs to be reported but probably isn't.

Knopp said ticket agencies buy thousands of season tickets each year, banking on being able to resell them at a profit, and hitting the jackpot when a team makes the World Series. The agencies cover their bets by buying season tickets for several teams, figuring their losses will be more than covered if one team makes a championship run and ticket prices skyrocket.

Fans paid a reported $37,804 ($10,000 more than the average annual per capita income in Los Angeles) for two front row seats to Game 1 at Dodger Stadium, and $72,008 for four seats in the second row behind the Dodger dugout.

Ticket prices were plummeting, however, as game time approached late Tuesday afternoon. Standing room only was down to an even $700.

And there's always TV, with no blackout during the series.

Go Blue! And green, too.

Get more of Steve Lopez's work and follow him on Twitter @LATstevelopez

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