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Yellow tier status doesn’t instantly mean more SoCal sports fans in stands

A fan with an extra large glove is congratulated after catching a ball in the left field pavilion at Dodger Stadium.
A fan wearing a mask while holding an extra-large glove is congratulated after catching a ball in the left-field pavilion at Dodger Stadium on April 9.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Businesses all over are undoubtedly rejoicing at the news Tuesday that Los Angeles County has moved into the least-restrictive yellow tier of California’s COVID-19 reopening system. However, major sports teams aren’t promising significantly higher attendance soon, even though more fans would produce more revenue.

The reason? The six-foot distancing requirements between seating groups that haven’t shown proof of vaccination.

The Dodgers have no immediate plans to increase attendance, spokesman Jon Chapper said. They could not sell even to the 33% of capacity allowed under the orange tier because of distancing requirements. The Dodgers introduced fully vaccinated sections that require no social distancing to about 500 fans at their last homestand and plan to increase the number to 1,000 fans when they return home May 11.

The Dodgers on Friday doubled the size of their fully vaccinated fan section, adding the option for every game of the team’s next homestand.

The Lakers and Clippers sold tickets to 2,000 to 3,000 fans per game at Staples Center under orange tier guidelines. Neither team is optimistic that they could increase attendance to 50% of Staples Center’s 19,068 capacity under the yellow tier because of distancing restrictions. Both teams are working on creating fully vaccinated sections but must gain approval from the county and the NBA.

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Teams could ask local public health authorities to reevaluate the six-foot distancing requirement. The Dodgers’ triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate said Tuesday it would open its season at 50% of capacity, with public health authorities there approving a three-foot distance between seating groups.

Orange County remains in the orange tier, and the Angels have no immediate plans to increase capacity from one-third (about 15,000 seats) even if the county moves to the yellow tier. Like everyone else, the Angels are awaiting more guidance to see whether they will be able to expand capacity after June 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s tentative target date for fully re-opening the state.

Progression to the yellow tier won’t mean much to Southern California’s two MLS teams either.

The Galaxy, which limited attendance to 6,853 in its first home game last month, will expand that only slightly for Saturday’s rivalry game with LAFC because of social-distancing protocols. Its stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, has a capacity of 27,000.

LAFC, which doesn’t play at home again until May 22, welcomed 4,900 fans to each of its first games at Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park. That number will increase some for the May 22 game with Colorado, but mostly because the team has opened a section for fully vaccinated fans in which social-distancing guidelines are not as stringent. The Banc has a capacity of about 22,500.

Southern California NFL and college football teams haven’t announced their attendance plans for the fall yet. The Rams declined to comment Tuesday. The team has said since the pandemic began that it would follow state and local guidelines.

Staff writers Bill Shaikin, Jack Harris, Andrew Greif, Dan Woike, Gary Klein and Kevin Baxter contributed to this report.


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