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U.S. Cellullar Field is so empty it's scary

  • Hardly anyone showed up to watch the White Sox-Twins game Thursday.
Hardly anyone showed up to watch the White Sox-Twins game Thursday. (Matt Lindner / For RedEye )
April 03, 2014|By Matt Lindner | For RedEye

Ever wondered what it would be like if you and a few of your buddies--and only you and a couple of your buddies--got to watch a ballgame, having more or less free rein of the stadium?

If you were at the Cell for Thursday afternoon’s White Sox-Twins series finale, you would’ve been able to live out that dream. Wind chills in the lower 30s combined with rain throughout the morning and a weekday afternoon start resulted in a perfect storm that hit the team’s ticket sales full force.

Simply put, it was a miserable day for baseball.

Approximately 800 fans--or roughly 40,000 shy of capacity--were in the ballpark when Jose Quintana threw his first pitch just after 1 p.m. The atmosphere was more library than live sporting event, with most of the concession stands in the upper deck closed and yelling from the field audible in the right field upper deck.

As the game went on--and on, for about 3 ½ hours--conditions worsened, and fans more or less had their run of the place, moving around and experiencing the ballpark from seats they might not otherwise have been able to afford.

By the time Paul Konerko grounded out to end the game with the tying run at third base, there were maybe 200 hearty souls left to show their appreciation for a legend taking his career victory lap.

The team announced a total attendance of 11,056, and to their immense credit, the Sox announced that everyone who had a ticket for the game could exchange it for a free ticket to another in April. As anyone who was actually at 35th and Shields on Thursday will tell you, the only way 11,000-plus actually passed through the turnstiles is if they counted each fan 10 times.

It was the second straight game that brought out empty seats and echoes throughout the park, not a good sign for a team that traditionally does not draw well even during the best of times. The past seven years have seen steadily declining attendance, from nearly 3 million in 2006 to just more than 1.7 million last year. Which is a shame because the Sox put some effort into making their park fan friendly. The beer selection on the concourse rivals that of any Old Town hot spot and the food offered at the concessions is better than any other sporting venue in the city.

Hope may spring eternal on Chicago’s North Side, but on the South Side, despite an exciting young team with marketable players, it appears to have run dry.

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