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Two days until LAFC open their stadium: Making a home for all

Or, striking the balance between making money and being accessible.

MLS: LAFC Culinary Tour Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When Los Angeles Football Club announced to supporters’ groups that ticket prices in the North End of Banc of California Stadium, aka where The 3252 will stand, will be capped a $20 per game, it was hailed as a pro-supporter move.

Rightly so, considering the supporters groups who stand in the appointed section at MLS games do the literal work of providing the noise and atmosphere for the game overall. It’s truly sweat equity — supporters stand, jump, dance, yell, sing, play instruments, swing flags, hoist tifo, throw confetti and streamers, hang signs, and do it all for at least 90 minutes, usually more than that.

As a result, it stands to reason that those people, who often don’t get to watch games particularly well themselves, should have discounted prices, and that’s a commendable move by the club.

Beyond that, how accessible are games from an affordability perspective?

At this point, it’s really hard to say. The team didn’t have to publicly unveil season ticket (aka membership) prices, because they converted enough deposits to full sales, and those prices almost certainly won’t be released until the 2020 season at the earliest because memberships run for two seasons.

Demand is high, which is great! That means there’s a strong chance Banc of California Stadium will be sold out throughout the season. The buzz around the team being converted into actual season ticket sales is testament to the team truly finding a fanbase, connecting with them, and compelling them to open their wallets.

And with the stadium not being a megalith but a modest 22,000 capacity venue, right in line with most current MLS stadia, the scarcity of seats should help keep tickets sold (provided the team plays well enough — we are talking about LA and ultimately winners get butts in seats here).

But here’s a spot where fans and the team’s priorities are going to differ. Small supply plus big demand means ticket prices will rise, and will keep going up for the team as long as the demand is high. And that’s good for the team, who we can’t forget paid a $110 million expansion fee to MLS, $350 million for a stadium and another $30 million for a training facility, plus many more millions to start an academy, hire staff and stock a team. In that light, of course LAFC is going to look to recoup their investment, and they have every right to. Sports are a business, after all.

I do think there’s a good chance that fans who are not made of money will be squeezed out of Banc of California Stadium, however. To me, this is why Dodger Stadium is so special — it’s basically the only place where all classes, all races, people of all neighborhoods come together to watch sports at a venue in LA. You can get affordable tickets to Dodger Stadium, take your family for a day out, give a child an opportunity to have a special experience most of the season.

In contrast, the high point of sports as spectacle in Los Angeles has been Lakers’ games. While tickets are far more affordable these days with the team lacking stars and failing to make the NBA playoffs, at their height the past 30 years Lakers games were the place to see and be seen at a sporting event, and ticket prices reflected that. Nosebleed seats were expensive — not by rich people standards but by regular people standards, such that going to a Lakers game was a significant investment, something to give someone for their birthday, as opposed to having a relaxing day at the ballpark up at Dodger Stadium, where a spectator didn’t have to scrimp and save to go.

This is something I’ve thought of a great deal, coming from a working class family that would never have been able to afford season tickets to any sport and getting to go to a game was a special occasion that would happen once every few years. There are millions of kids who were like me who would have loved to go to games all the time but it could never happen. Sure, it didn’t hurt the Lakers in building a massive fanbase, but does LAFC want to be a team that trends to become the team of the wealthy in LA, with the sole exception going to those people in the North End who do actual work in providing atmosphere?

Of course, if LAFC’s ultimate problem is that they are “too successful” and only rich people will be able to attend games, that means they’ve found a lot of success, and probably means the team has been winning trophies. It’s a good problem in many respects, and again, for LAFC brass it probably won’t be a problem whatsoever, as they’ll be making back their investment, little by little.

But consider this: If LAFC get carried away in the future, raise prices at will because someone, somewhere will pay it, LAFC may not become the team of Los Angeles after all, but rather the team of a wealthy segment of Los Angeles. If they become too rapacious with ticket prices outside of The 3252, we may find a future in which the LA Galaxy, once the team that had the highest ticket prices in MLS by far, becomes an affordable alternative to LAFC, and those who want to take their kids to a game may look back to the Galaxy to experience live MLS soccer. Let’s hope the team doesn’t let that happen, and at least some tickets remain affordable to pretty much all LAFC fans, to reflect a very diverse global city.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!