The Lakers just won the NBA championship, and Southern California celebrated with them, with hundreds of thousands of fans attracted to a parade down Figueroa Street and a rally at the Coliseum.
There are 122 teams in the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball. And Southern California is home to the team that best repays its fans "for all the emotion, money and time fans invest," according to an ESPN study to be unveiled today.
That team is not the Lakers. That team is the Angels.
The Angels have ranked as the most fan-friendly baseball team for six consecutive years in the annual ESPN study, but this is the first time the Angels have ranked No. 1 among all the teams in the four major North American sports leagues.
The Lakers ranked No. 51. The Clippers ranked last, at No. 122.
When Arte Moreno bought the Angels in 2003, he bet he could transform an intermittently successful team marketed to Orange County into a perennial powerhouse by expanding its reach to Los Angeles and beyond, in the process generating enough revenue to keep the player payroll up and ticket costs down.
Moreno negotiated a $500-million television contract with Fox, bought a radio station and changed the call letters to KLAA, and prevailed in a four-year court fight that secured his right to call the team by the Los Angeles name.
In their first 43 seasons, the Angels never had three consecutive winning seasons, with a record attendance of 3.06 million in the year after winning the World Series. In five full years under Moreno, the Angels have won the American League West four times and drawn at least 3.34 million every year.
The Angels have fielded one of the top six player payrolls in baseball every year under Moreno. The cost for a family of four to attend a game at Angel Stadium has ranked among the bottom six every year since 2005, according to Team Marketing Report. The Angels offer a cap for $7 and charge $8 for parking.
The study by ESPN used a combination of surveys of fans and quantitative research to rate franchises in eight categories: affordability, coaches, players, owners, fan relations, stadium experience, championships, and "bang for the buck" in converting revenues into victories.
"This honor means a great deal to our organization because it was voted on by the fans," Moreno said in a statement to ESPN.
"I am extremely proud of our staff for working day in and day out to provide what we call the 'baseball experience.' Their focus is always on our fans, which would include providing courteous service, affordable pricing, and a clean environment. And, of course, the baseball people work hard to put a winning team on the field!"
The Dodgers ranked No. 50, one spot ahead of the Lakers. The Dodgers and Lakers ranked highly for coaches and stadium experience -- and the Lakers for championships and owners -- but the Dodgers were rated below average in affordability and fan experience.
The Lakers' standing reflects in large measure their rank as one of the 10 least affordable teams in pro sports. The average price for a family of four, including tickets, parking and concessions, according to Team Marketing Report: $141.18 for the Angels, $221.64 for the Dodgers, $479.48 for the Lakers.
The Clippers ranked last for coaches and players, next-to-last for fan relations and in the bottom 10 for owners, championships and "bang for the buck."
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Fans speak out
Breaking down the ESPN
study on fan friendliness:
2. Carolina Hurricanes
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Detroit Red Wings