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Strike Victims : If the Baseball Players Go on Strike, They Won't Be the Only Ones Not Getting Paid : The Hotels, Bars, and Restaurants Will Suffer Too

August 07, 1994|ARA NAJARIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A players strike would prove very costly to area businesses that depend on baseball games for revenue, owners of some of those establishments said.

"The strike (would have) a tremendous business impact," said Fred Ross, who owns Front Row Center ticket agency. "If you take away all the games nationally--and consider what it will do to the communities--it's going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Whether it will cause a recession in the country . . . no, the country is bigger than baseball."

But Ross is correct, the devastation to baseball's peripheral businesses will be real if the strike begins on Friday.

Businesses such as ticket agencies, hotels and bars make a large part of their living off major league baseball.

Ross said the financial losses caused by a strike reach beyond the United States, but the main financial losses would occur here.

"The impact goes beyond our (ticket) business" he said. "Let me give you an example: If a Japanese business person comes to Los Angeles, just about the first thing he or she will do is find out what sporting events are happening. Baseball is huge there, so they want to see the Dodgers or the Angels. That's a lot of business right there.

"Then there's people in the United States, from places that don't have major league baseball, who want to vacation out here. Tourism may be down for a number of reasons, but people from Omaha or wherever always call to say, 'Hey, are the Dodgers in town?' There are people who may not come to L.A. because the Dodgers are not going to be here. So not only are they not going to be buying Dodger tickets, but they won't be here to go to restaurants or whatever."

As diverse as a ticket agency can be, Ross estimates baseball tickets make up 5% of his overall business revenue.

He said that probably means he would have to lay off a full-time employee. Who can say if that job ever comes back?

"It has a direct impact from Dodger games alone," Ross said. "On the average, I sell about 40 tickets per game for $35. That's $1,400 for every game the Dodgers don't play."

Reduced patronage of restaurants and bars by Dodger and Angel fans would be particularly hard on the servers who rely on tips.

"A lot of employees are not going to be working a lot of hours that they would have," said Steve Nuccio, who owns Little Joe's--a downtown haunt for Dodger fans. "A lot of my employees live off of tips. They aren't going to get them if people don't come because there are no games."

Nuccio estimates Little Joe's would lose about $1,000 per home game canceled because of the strike. That figures to about $20,000.

The Catch, a restaurant and bar across from Anaheim Stadium, projected a similar loss.

"We support the team, but the fans just are not coming out to see the team this year, so our numbers are down anyway," said John Marquez, food and beverage manager at The Catch. "The Rams will be here soon, and we do very well with them. Then we'll wait for the Ducks after that. Roller hockey has even helped.

"If it wasn't for the (Anaheim) Arena, the strike would have a devastating effect."

Still, Marquez said The Catch already has had to cut back its staff because of low Angel attendance.

Marquez said even though it appears as if The Catch depends on Angels games, the bar can get by on regular business and business stemming from arena events.

"We learned over the years not to depend on sports events," Marquez said. "Even when stars like Ken Griffey Jr. come to town, the Angels are not drawing.

"The sports will often double our regular business, but the sports is a bonus, not our bread and butter."

Little Joe's doesn't have a nearby arena or other attractions to fall back on.

"I suppose we could have our own softball game and see who comes to watch," Nuccio said jokingly.

Another less-than-obvious loss of revenue would occur at hotels.

Ten American League teams stay at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange when they play the Angels.

"We'll lose 900-some room-nights, plus food and beverage or whatever else the team might spend money on," said Mike Hall, who is general manager of the hotel. "We're looking at around $70,000 to $75,000 lost if the strike goes the whole season.

"That would have a big impact on us."

Also lost to hotels would be a small percentage of fans who travel to weekend games and stay overnight.

"We sell Dodger tickets in San Bernardino County all the time to people who drive into L.A. for a game, spend the night at a hotel, see a day game and then go home after that," Ross said.

"Others might stay in L.A. to shop or go to the movies. It affects the whole community."

Ross said that for every dollar spent on a game ticket, three to five more will be generated from it.

"You see it in what people pay for parking and concessions," Ross said. "It's the same if I go to the theater--I spend it on parking, popcorn and whatever."

The strike would also have an impact on KTLA, which televises Angel and Dodger games.

Baseball has a reputation for being a poor ratings draw, but Greg Nathanson, general manager of KTLA, says that is deceiving.

"We would rather see baseball," Nathanson said. "Other shows will do as well, if not better, in terms of ratings. But baseball draws a different type of advertiser, so it is something we want. The advertising for baseball is at a premium rate."

The impact on television could last into next year.

"A strike will make us lose some momentum," Nathanson said. "The Dodger ratings are already up a point because this year they are in a pennant race. It's an exciting season with Ken Griffey, Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell all having great years. We're hopeful the ratings would increase and improve our advertising rate for next year."

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