LOS ANGELES -- The initial surge of excitement has faded, the honeymoon stage is over, and now, in Year 2 of their relocation, the Rams will find out just how loyal their Los Angeles-based fans truly are.
The team will begin making single-game tickets available at 10 a.m. PT on Friday. It will start with an exclusive, 72-hour purchasing window for season-ticket holders, which will be followed by a 48-hour purchasing window for those who placed deposits. By 10 a.m. PT on Wednesday, whatever is left will be sold to the general public. That week, the Rams will also make season tickets available to those who remain on their waiting list.
Early in the 2016 calendar year, the Rams received more than 56,000 refundable $100 season-ticket deposits in a span of three weeks. The entire allotment of 70,000 seats ultimately went to about 24,000 fans. They were all gone within the first six hours, and more than half of those interested were left without them. The availability for 2017 comes courtesy of the original season-ticket holders who did not renew.
The Rams would not disclose their renewal percentage, stating only the obvious: It wasn't 100 percent.
"We expected that," Rams vice president of ticket sales and premium seating Jake Bye said. "It’s very uncommon -- really, unprecedented -- for a team to renew 100 percent of their season tickets.”
The Rams allowed each eligible fan to purchase a maximum of eight season seats for 2016 home games, and Bye said "a lot of people" simply renewed for fewer seats in 2017.
Clearly, though, interest has waned since that initial rush, which is obvious when one considers the buildup of a return to Los Angeles and the calamitous season that followed it.
Still, the Rams were the top contributor to the shared pool of ticket revenue coming off the 2016 season, by virtue of making something in the neighborhood of $80 million through that avenue, according to a report by Sports Business Journal. They drew an average of 84,457 fans to their seven regular-season home games at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, trailing only the Cowboys for the NFL lead in home attendance. But most of that figure was determined by tickets sold months before the season even began. Down the stretch, with the Rams and their listless offense on their way to a 4-12 showing, empty seats were prevalent at the Coliseum.
Now the Chargers have joined them in L.A.
A survey conducted by Loyola Marymount University asked 2,400 adults residing in L.A. County to identify their favorite local professional sports team. Seventy-one percent said either the Dodgers or Lakers, according to numbers published in a recent Los Angeles Times article. The Clippers got seven percent, while the Angels and Kings garnered six percent. The Rams received five percent, along with the Galaxy. Still, Bye insists that interest in the Rams is "very high," pointing to the coaching hires and the free-agent signings.
Said Bye: "The anticipation for the football team to return to a competitive level, and potentially be a playoff-caliber team, I think that’s very real."
The Rams will once again put roughly 10,000 single-game tickets on sale for each of their nine 2017 home games, which includes preseason contests against the Cowboys and Chargers (and another lost home game to London, this time against the division-rival Cardinals). Last year, given all the complications of a relocation, the Rams didn't make single-game tickets available until July. But now they're able to put them out there shortly after the NFL releases its regular-season schedule.
That will take place Thursday at 5 p.m. PT. And one of the more intriguing questions is whether the NFL will schedule a Sunday when both the Rams and Chargers are at home, something the league has not ruled out. The Chargers will spend the next two years playing out of the 30,000-seat StubHub Center, which resides only 12 miles away from the Coliseum.
"The city is big enough," Bye said. "This is an unbelievable sports market. You look at all the other major sports leagues here that have two teams, that are very well supported, consistently year in and year out. It’s incumbent upon us to create excitement and enthusiasm, and to put an entertaining product on the field, provide a great fan experience regardless of if there’s a second team in L.A. or not. At the end of the day, more opportunities for the people of Los Angeles to see NFL football is a great thing."
The Coliseum holds a capacity of about 80,000 when the Rams don't open additional seating, but they will lose an undetermined amount of seats due to renovations. USC is removing the video boards from the east end of the Coliseum in order to return the peristyle to its original form and install new, state-of-the-art video boards in the upper northeast and southeast seating areas. Next year, USC is expected to add suites that will also impact the amount of tickets the Rams can sell.
The Rams previously informed fans that season-ticket packages, which ranged from $360 to $2,025 in 2016, will remain flat. Those who renewed continue to have priority for season tickets to the new, $2.6 billion stadium that will open in 2019. But not everyone renewed, and the guess is that a lot of fans did not.
Bye said the Rams did not have a target renewal rate.
"I think the reality is that renewing at 100 percent doesn’t happen," he added. "And then you factor in team performance, and some of the challenges that we had in Year 1 in the Coliseum, and all of the learnings that were taken from that experience -- we didn’t expect to be at 100 percent. We were absolutely prepared for that. And we think the plan that’s going to roll out in the coming weeks, offering this inventory to new fans, is a great one."