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Not drawing any fans to the ballpark? Here's an option

Sep 22, 2010, 2:04 PM EDT

You could always, I dunno, stretch giant pieces of vinyl with photos of fans on them over the seats to make it look like you have a full house.

In a bid to improve the ambiance, make its games look better on TV, earn a
little extra advertising revenue and save a little money on game-day
operations, Triestina has installed what is believed to be the sports
world’s first “virtual crowd.” The team won’t say how much it paid to
produce and install the PVC covering, which features images of real
Triestina fans, but between the money the team will save by eliminating
stewards, attendants, medical staff and insurance for the shuttered
seats (about $130,000 per season) and the extra ad revenue it may earn,
team owner Stefano Fantinel says the experiment “will pay for itself
very soon.”

Click through for a pic of it. It’s . . . interesting.

Probably wouldn’t be necessary for baseball in that you really only see the bulk of the crowd on home runs and fly balls and folks tend not to get too weirded out by empty ballpark seats.

But football is having a hard time drawing fans these days. And really, given the way football economics work — TV is everything, and viewership is booming — it’s not totally wrong to think of it as a sport that takes place in thirty one individual television studios around the nation. Why not use props?

  1. Omega - Sep 22, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    Probably takes too much time to set up 10,000 individual cardboard cutouts…at least that would provide a little depth and reality to the faux fans, wouldn’t it?

  2. APBA Guy - Sep 22, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    The technology that gave us crowd shots in “Gladiator”, like all the Sfx work in Hollywood, continues to improve. It is possible, though still very expensive, to insert digital fans into empty seats during stadium feeds with just a microsecond delay, even given all the severe cuts the directors do. It is a lot cheaper to do cardboard or vinyl physical renderings. And these are businesses we are talking about.
    Still, this will not change the reality of games such as last night’s monster 11,150 crowd at the Mausoleum. Up by 1100 from the previous night. Only winning and stars can do that.

  3. Mr. Heyward - Sep 22, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    I’m a virtual fan, aren’t I? No one here can verify I’m flesh and blood.

  4. D-Luxxx - Sep 22, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    What about crowd noise? Do they pump that in too?

  5. skipperxc - Sep 22, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    It’s interesting how you say “TV is everything” for football when if the games don’t sell out they’re blacked out in the local market that, presumably, is the one most likely to want to watch them.

  6. Professor Longnose - Sep 22, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    I bet football fans would pay to be virtual fans. Set up monitor instead of seats, and fans will put webcams in their houses as they watch TV, and show up in the stadium. If people will pay $20,000 for PSLs, they’ll pay for that, too.

  7. Jonny5 - Sep 22, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    I heard these will be installed in Miami instead of seats when the Marlins stadium goes up. Loria figures he’ll save mucho dinero that way, seats is expensive. Imagine that. The two upper decks at a marlins game full of fake fans. Kinda like the Yankees….. Pachow! ;>P

  8. Utley's hair - Sep 22, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Noise is provided by the vuvuzelas.

  9. Old Gator - Sep 22, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    I don’t think there’s much of a chance that Scrooge McLoria will do that. First of all, the seats are already covered by his (ahem) agreement with the people of Macondo. To replace them with vinyl peectures there is an uncomfortable possibility that he would have to reach into his own pocket and pay for those things. Worse yet: when the Borg, the Mutts and the Cubbies come to town, sometimes even the Feelies, the Feesh occasionally break 10,000 in attendance, and some of them like to sit in the cheap seats. If there were nothing but vinyl up there, where would Scrooge put these suckers?
    No, here’s what he’d do: he’d ask Faux Sports to develop digital software that would superimpose virtual fans in the empty seats in William Gibsonesque fashion. It’d be a one-time development charge and the software wouldn’t need to be hosed down once in a while like the vinyl scrim, saving McLoria additional money on his water bill. I grant you that most of the guy fans would look like Glenn Beck and the chicks would look like Sarah Palin, but they could throw in a Hannity face and a Malkin face….uh, no, skip that, no one wants an outfielder brained by a line drive because he saw her and turned to stone in the middle of running his route. Maybe Ann Coul….no, forget that, Macondo Banana Massacre Field will be a no-smoking facility. Well, I figure he’ll probably have to have at least one image of Natascha Seijas up there, so she’ll take up the space of maybe ten scrawny Faux hags. It’s not an ideal trade-off, but I could think of worse.

  10. gerryb323 - Sep 22, 2010 at 5:08 PM

    Gator, this is the funniest comment I have read in a while.
    The pictures remind me of the fans in Tecmo Super Bowl….now if only they could add a flutter so it looks like they’re waving!

  11. MVD - Sep 23, 2010 at 2:59 AM

    Man, that looks real… Seriously, why bother with people when its so obviously not people? Just do more ads.

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